26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr McIVOR presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth requesting the Government to prohibit the advertising of cigarettes on broadcasting and television stations and to require that a suitable warning of the health hazard of smoking be displayed on cigarette packets and wherever cigarettes are advertised.
Petition received and read.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to inform the House that the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck, left Australia last Saturday to lead a special mission to Saigon to represent Australia at the inauguration of the President of Vietnam. It is expected that he will be away until Friday, 3rd November. During Mr Hasluck’s absence, the Minister for Education and Science, Senator Gorton, will act as Minister for External Affairs and, until the Minister’s return, questions in the House relating to external affairs should be directed to me.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Freeth, left Australia last Saturday to represent the Australian Government at the funeral of the former Prime Minister of Japan, Mr Yoshida, in Tokyo. He expects to be away until Thursday, 2nd November. During Mr Freeth’s absence, the Minister for Works, Mr Kelly, will act as Minister for Shipping and Transport.
Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight
Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa- Leader of the
Opposition) - I give notice, Mr Speaker, that at the next sitting I shall move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of the untrue and misleading information given by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Air in relation to the use of the VIP flight.
– The Leader of the Opposition having given this notice, Mr Speaker, I wish to inform him that the Government is willing, and indeed eager, to proceed with this matter forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of want of confidence of which he has given notice for the next sitting, and that such motion take precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of the untrue and misleading information given by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Air in relation to the use of the VIP flight.
This is as serious a motion as could be moved in any legislature. It goes to the basis of responsible government. If Parliament cannot rely on the veracity and credibility of information which it seeks from the Government and which the Government gives, the whole fabric of parliamentary democracy and of responsible government is destroyed. This motion is so serious that if the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) sought to give an explanation before I proceeded, I would be happy to yield and, in fact, to hold the motion over until my colleagues and I had had an opportunity to consider the explanation.
– The honourable gentleman knew that I was proposing to do that.
– Mr Speaker, honourable members know only what they read in the newspapers. On Saturday, there was a Press statement that the Prime Minister intended to make to the House a third statement on this subject. Yesterday and today, there was speculation that, in fact, he might not make a statement but might answer pre-arranged questions on the matter.
– Did the honourable member ask the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden)?
– The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), who is Deputy Leader of my Party sought for a long time this morning to learn from the Leader of the House whether the Prime Minister intended to make a statement. Since no information could be gained, the Opposition decided to take the step which I have taken and which will mean that there must be a debate and a determination of this issue. It is clear that the Prime Minister does not wish to make a third statement on the matter. I shall therefore state the facts on which, with the information at present at our disposal in both Houses, we have based this motion. On 13th May last year, the right honourable gentleman gave a written reply to a question on notice asked by my colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). The question concerned the use of VIP aircraft during the previous 12 months, and its third paragraph was in these terms:
In respect of each such Bight during this period, what was the (a) name of the VIP who used the aircraft, (b) name of any other passenger, (c) destination, (d) cost and (e) purpose?
In respect of 3 (a), (b) and (c), the Prime Minister gave this written reply:
Passengers’ names are recorded only so that aircraft may be safely and properly loaded. After a flight is completed, the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long. For similar reasons, no records are kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight have taken VIP passengers. The answers’ to these questions are thus not available.
Unless the procedure changed between May last year and the beginning of this year, that answer was untrue, Mr Speaker.
In the other place, early this month, this matter was raised by way of question and statement on many occasions. On 4th October, the Prime Minister made a statement in this House. I shall quote passages from it later. On 5th October, in the other place, a motion referring to the Prime Minister’s statement was carried. It was in these terms:
That the Senate take note of the paper with dissatisfaction, and therefore that there be laid on the table of the Senate all accounts and papers relating to the use of VIP aircraft by Ministers and other members of Parliament during the period of 1st July 1966 to 5th October 1967, in particular all accounts and papers containing records of -
applicants and applications,
airports of embarkation and of call,
times and distances of flight, including waiting limes, in connection with flights and any flights necessary to fulfil engagements,
the cost of and incidental to each flight, and
the Department or service to which the flight was charged.
On the 24th of this month, in the other place, Senator McKellar, the Minister representing the Minister for Air, had commenced to read a written reply to questions from an honourable senator, which had been on the notice paper there since March and April last. The reading of the answer was interrupted by the sudden collapse of Senator Hannaford. In this chamber, on that day, the Prime Minister made a statement upon the subject. On the following day, 25th October, the full reply was given in the other place. Dealing with applicants who applied for . the use of VIP aircraft, the following questions were asked:
The answer was:
The answers to (b) and (c) of each question would be very detailed. They are available from the papers being tabled.
It is quite clear, from those papers, that unless the procedure had altered between May and December last year, it had been possible to give all the. information on destinations sought by the honourable member for Grayndler early last year.
In the other place the question proceeded:
How many passengers - were carried?
The written answer was in these terms:
No detailed records have been kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight.
Then the answer gave the general classes of persons who were able to travel on VIP aircraft.
On the same day, the 25th, last Wednesday, in this place, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), asked the Treasurer (Mr McMahon):
Has he any explanation to offer for the fact that out of a total of 422 VIP flights during the period January to August 1967, the number of such flights ordered for air training, defence personnel and all the defence chiefs put together totalled only 29, compared with the 48 VIP flights ordered by the right honourable gentleman for his use alone?
In his reply the right honourable gentleman said:
Frequently, too, I use VIP flights so that officials can come with me in order that I may discuss with them matters that require my immediate attention.
Later that day in the other place, further documents were tabled by the Leader of the
Government there (Senator Gorton). From these documents it was possible to learn the names of all persons who were flying with VIP applicants. In the light of that further information it is clear that the answer, which I have read, by the Minister representing the Minister for Air, that no detailed records have been kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight, ‘is untrue. From those documents it is also clear that the statement made by the Treasurer was untrue. From these documents it appears that on only four occasions that could be ascertained was a Treasury official travelling with the Treasurer. Those dates were Thursday, 6th July of this year; Tuesday, 11th July; Thursday, 13th July; and Monday, 17th July. The official is not sufficiently senior to appear in the Commonwealth directory. It is not true and it would be misleading to say that four flights out of fifty-four between January and September of this year - four flights out of some forty flights which the Treasurer undertook without any of his colleagues - would be frequent travel with officials.
– The word ‘frequent’ was not used, if the honourable gentleman reads Hansard.
– The honourable gentleman will have another opportunity to give an explanation of his earlier replies. Four out of fifty-four is not frequent.
There were some lesser inaccuracies for which the Prime Minister was responsible, and I quote here from his first statement on 4th October. He said: no aircraft actually has been ordered in the life of my own Government … the fleet we now have was ordered back in November 1965.
– You are going to quibble on that are you?
– I do not say that this inaccuracy is nearly as serious as his previous one, but the honourable gentleman was, if not speaking from a prepared text, speaking from notes. He spoke quite deliberately. He spoke with full knowledge that there had been a debate and an entirely new procedure on this subject in the other place. He was aware of the issue yet he stated this twice on 4th October. The fact is that the Prime Minister, in an answer to my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), said that the HS748 aircraft were ordered in April last year, the Mystere aircraft were ordered in June last year and the BAC111, it would appear, were ordered last year or perhaps this year. again,thehonourablegentlemanstated quite categorically in his speech on 4th October:
There has been only one instance since I became Prime Minister on which members of my family have travelled on an aircraft which was not an aircraft carrying me to my destination.
I believe that he was referring to a trip on 27th February of this year. But it would appear from the documents tabled in the other place last Wednesday there were other trips by members of the Prime Minister’s family- 5th July, 12th July, 17th July and 11th September. I do not regard these matters as in themselves justifying in any way the terms of the motion I have moved; nor do I regard the facts which I have stated about the dates of the ordering of the aircraft as justifying this. I merely point out that these things were said in the course of a deliberate statement made by the Prime Minister in the light of a debate, persistent questions and a suspension of standing orders in the other place designed to obviate any further action there.
– Let me ask the honourable gentleman this: When the honourable gentleman uses the term family’ is he referring to Mrs Holt and not my family in what I understand to be the general sense?
– I can show the right honourable gentleman photostat copies of the documents on which I base my statement. But from recollection there were also on some of these occasions the Prime Minister’s stepsons and his daughters in law.
– Not on 5th July or 18th July.
– I said 17th July.
– It is the 18th in my recollection.
– At all events, the serious things, Mr Speaker, are the answers given-
– Are you challenging the proposition that when referring to my family I was also including Mrs Holt going about her official occasions?
– I am quoting the statement the Prime Minister made. I believe that the documents which were tabled last Wednesday in the other place do not square with the statement that the Prime Minister made in this place on 4th October.
– Is there anybody in the House who, when I referred to my family, did not know that I was referring to members of my family other than my wife?
– There were other members of the right honourable gentleman’s family, I believe, present on some of these occasions. The right honourable gentleman may well care to explain these two matters of the date of the orders and the travel by members of his family.
– The honourable member took Cyril Wyndham to Adelaide. He is on the manifest.
– This charge was denied in the other place. It is not true.
– He is on the manifest.
– The honourable member for Griffith may say that outside the House if he likes, when Mr Wyndham will have his remedy. His statement is not true.
On the face of it, serious untruths have been contained in the answer given by the Prime Minister to the honourable member for Grayndler in May last year, the answer given last Wednesday in another place by the Minister representing the Minister for Air, and the answer given on the same day in this House by the Treasurer to the honourable member for Hindmarsh. The answers which were given are untrue. They were misleading in the light of the documents which were later tabled in the other place. In two cases the answers were given earlier the same day. One would imagine that the Prime Minister would not wait until today to justify - to explain - the answers which his colleagues gave last Wednesday. Their inaccuracy was known last Wednesday; it was known still more certainly last Thursday that the answers which were given were untrue - that they were misleading. The Government clearly, and nol least the head of the
Government, should have given an explanation promptly in the Parliament about answers which were untrue and misleading.
It is clear that any Minister may be the victim of mistakes on his own part or on the part of public servants. If this happens the Parliament must be able to sheet home responsibility to someone. There is no doubt that after the conclusion of the second Voyager’ Royal Commission the Parliament will require to have an explanation for various actions and statements by the Secretary of the Department of the Navy and successive Ministers for the Navy. Here, however, is a matter concerning the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Air. All of these matters require an explanation now. We can no longer wait to know whether it was a public servant who was responsible, or a Minister or a combination of Ministers and public servants. The Parliament must know why it was given inaccurate information - untrue, misleading information.
Correct information is the basis of responsible government. Ministers have been asked to resign for less. In July 1962 a Minister was required to resign for less serious conduct than has happened on this occasion. It is plain that the Ministry is prepared to give inadequate answers even on questions about which there has been parliamentary debate and a great deal of public attention, and condone answers which are inaccurate, untrue and misleading. They will brazenly stick to their guns despite the fact that documents subsequently tabled showed that they are inaccurate, untrue and misleading.
-Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has moved what by parliamentary practice is the most serious motion within the capacity of any member or section of the Parliament to move. He has moved that the House has no confidence in the Government. If that motion were carried, of course, the Government would go out of office. This is not an unfamiliar parliamentary technique; we have witnessed it many times over the years. It has became almost traditional in relation to the Budget brought down by the Treasurer. But with the whole gamut of Government policy to range over, with all the varied activities of a Commonwealth Government involved in military operations, involved in far-reaching foreign policy relationships, with the conduct of a great buoyant developing economy, with the problems of employment and social welfare - the whole gamut of national policy to seize on as a ground for attacking a government in office - the Opposition has not found an opportunity to do this until now when it comes to us on this particular issue. I am glad to think that the Commonwealth of Australia is regarded by honourable gentlemen opposite as being in such good state in its domestic., ‘ foreign and defence situation that they have to turn to this issue in order to attack us.
I welcome the motion. In point of fact I had intended not to anticipate it but to deal with what I believe were thoroughly unjustified and cowardly allegations made in the Senate last Friday against me and others. It is a welcome change to find the Leader of the Opposition, who throws out his chest and says ‘I. will debate with you in any forum of the Commonwealth’, coming into this Parliament and debating with us here in the place where these debates should be conducted. If he really believed, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) believed, that I had lied to the Parliament and that my colleague the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) had lied to the Parliament or that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) had lied to the Parliament, the proper place for him to state that was here before me where I could hear the charge and answer it. But the Leader of the Opposition let his hatchet man in the Senate get the run on us. He let the matter run all round Australia on a Friday when we were not sitting, knowing that there would be no effective opportunity for me to deal with this matter at length and to have it on the record until the Parliament met on the Tuesday.
As soon as I saw these reports I let it be known through my own Press secretary to the Press Gallery in a formal set of words that I not only repudiated these charges but also that I would be seeking an opportunity to comment on them. The Leader of the
Opposition said that he did not know that I was going to make a statement here today.
– He is a liar.
– Order! The honourable member for Mitchell will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I do not know how far the honourable gentleman consults his colleagues. He says that he sought information from the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). We were not able to ascertain until I had returned from lunch what the Opposition was doing. The Leader of the Opposition could have ascertained as soon as Cabinet rose what we were doing. I have here not notes prepared to answer the honourable gentleman in relation to a motion of no confidence but notes for a statement which I was to make to the House in which I would have dealt with the position which had arisen in the Senate.
– Make it now.
– I will, and I shall take longer to do it than the Leader of the Opposition who went through one of the most laboured performances on a motion of no confidence that I have heard in this place. The irony of it is that a motion of no confidence on the ground of the Government’s untruthfulness is presented by a man who, as Leader of the Opposition, has established a record for lack of credibility unequalled, in my experience, in the history of Federation. He is the man who says: The Government cannot tell us the facts or the truth.’ There is not a man on this side of the House who has not challenged the credibility of statements made by the honourable gentleman opposite. I mention only one in passing. He told us the other day that only one government in South East Asia supported the bombing policy of the United States of America. I will not elaborate. There will be another occasion when we can examine his statement in more detail. But should we move a motion of no confidence in the Leader of the Opposition because he so wilfully misstated the facts of that situation? There are scores of illustrations.
In the statement I proposed to make to the House I wanted to deal with three aspects. One was the important constitutional issue raised in the Senate. I hope that honourable members of this House of Representatives who have some regard for the authority of this chamber will allow me to develop that, because it concerns where we stand and where governments drawn principally from this chamber stand in relation to the Houses of the Parliament. The second aspect of my intended statement - I felt almost apologetic at having to do this - dealt with what I can describe only as the trivia raised in the Senate discussion. I had made two statements to the House on this subject. After the second I replied to the Leader of the Opposition who had spoken following my statement. So, had I made another statement today, it would have been my fourth statement - and I hope a reasonably comprehensive statement, in four weeks on the VIP fleet.
I think it was in my second statement that I said: ‘I hope we can avoid the pettifogging and concentrate ob the pertinent*. The need for this comment is apparent to anybody who takes the trouble to read the debate in the Senate. It is true that two issues of substance were raised. I have mentioned the constitutional issue. I will deal with the other later. It relates to the information given by the Government. Much of the rest of the debate was devoted to the pettifogging trivial matters that had led me to warn the Parliament, and long before that to warn the Press, that the answers to the questions asked of us, if given by us in the form sought, could only create a quite misleading impression and give a distorted view of what is happening. That is why we delayed the answers to the five questions asked by Senator Turnbull. Unless the Parliament had a background knowledge of how the flight is actually conducted and an authoritative statement on the subject, the answers would be hopelessly misleading and in some respects, for practical reasons that oan be instanced, would be to a degree inaccurate. What I feared would happen did happen and I will come to some of the detail of it in a moment. As I said, while I apologise to the House for taking time to deal with matters which to fair minded and sensible people must seem pretty trivial, they are on the record and while they stand uncorrected I know the use that will be made of them by honourable gentlemen opposite.
– You bet your boots.
– 1 know that boots are a weapon of offence with which you would be familiar. We do not act in that way. Your philosophy is boots and all. But we do not think that is the way the Australian people would like to have their fighting done. Let me just deal - and 1 will try to do it quite speedily - with these aspects. Firstly, the attack on my wife and my family. I concede that the Leader of the Opposition and, indeed, the only other honourable member who spoke at any length on this matter, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), said that there was a need for the VIP flight and that it was proper that the Prime Minister, going about his official duties, should use it. The honourable member for Hindmarsh conceded the same right to the Leader of the Opposition, as indeed I have always done myself. The honourable member said - and I give the honourable member for Hindmarsh, who is not usually liberal minded in these matters, credit for saying - that he did not see anything improper in my wife or my family accompanying me; that he was not churlish in these matters, if I can quote his own phrase. In point of fact I have exercised a good deal of care in relation to this, because . I have had no wish either to embarrass my colleagues or to give the public any impression of abuse.
When I drew on my own recollections the other day - and I say at this point of time quite clearly that I was drawing on my recollections - I had no knowledge of the papers which were subsequently produced in the Senate chamber. I have never misled this Parliament wilfully or wittingly in the 31 years during which I have been a member of it. I have never had an attack that was established or, for that matter, as far as 1 can recall, seriously pressed against my good faith in providing information to this Parliament. If honourable gentlemen opposite try to dredge through the Hansard records over these decades, let them find the examples where my own good faith and the information I have given to this Parliament have come under attack. When I was speaking df my family I said that there had been only one occasion on which a flight had brought them on a journey without my personally being present. I have since had an opportunity of checking through the records and I find there were two other occasions, and I will mention them.
One was an occasion on which an aircraft had been ordered for me because I was accompanying President Johnson to Melbourne on his official visit to Melbourne and as I was about to go on the aircraft - and my family were to accompany me back to Canberra in order to take part in official celebrations here connected with the President’s visit - the President asked me whether I would join him on his aircraft so that we could have talks together. This flight appears on the manifest as a flight for my family, but it was a plane ordered to take me back to Canberra. This is one of the illustrations I have given of how, even when we present all the documents to the Parliament, misleading interpretations can still be brought into a matter. It may interest the House to know that the whole of my family returned the following day by commercial aircraft at their and my expense.
The only other occasion - and my wife reminded me of this one - was on the day which preceded a 7.30 a.m. takeoff for Western Australia where we were going for several days of official visit to Perth and to developmental projects in the west. My wife had a speaking engagement in Sydney and she had to be there and back in time to get ready for this early morning takeoff the next day and to undertake all the necessary preparation for what looked like being a week’s absence from either Melbourne or Canberra. As she was going to Sydney on this occasion she invited two of her daughtersinlaw to go with her for company. I do not know whether she was expected to make the flight alone and just sit and meditate, but anyhow, if it was a crime, she committed the crime of asking two of her daughtersinlaw to go with her on the flight there and back. I invite the honourable gentleman opposite to name any other occasions. They are the only two that I have been able to ascertain in addition to the one which I mentioned. I said then that no flight had been ordered especially for members of my family. When Princess Alexandra was here she was entertained by me at the Lodge. I wished to have my family with me while I provided this entertainment. The next morning an aircraft was going to Melbourne to pick up at least three Ministers. Two of the boys went off by commercial aircraft in the morning because they wanted to be back at their offices in time. The rest of the family went down in the aircraft which was going to Melbourne anyhow to pick up the Ministers. I know of no occasion when an aircraft was positioned to take members of my family, other than my wife, to any occasion whatever.
When not accompanying me, my wife has flown far more by commercial aircraft than she has by VIP aircraft. She does this when she goes about her official occasions. I think it proper that if she needs to have a VIP aircraft to make one of these trips it should be available to her. My wife has made two journeys to Whyalla. The first of these trips was made entirely by commercial aircraft. In order to get from Canberra to an aircraft which would pick her up at the appropriate time to take her to Whyalla and the function, and then wait till the chain of connections could be established, it took her the best part of 3 days to do the job. She said to me what a boon the new Mystere was because it left Canberra at 9.30 on the one morning, arrived at Whyalla by lunch time and returned to Canberra by lunch time the next day. I might add that this was an occasion when something was made of the fact that the passenger on the flight was the Ambassador of the United States of America, affectionately - or was it derisively - referred to by one of the honourable member’s party colleagues in the other place as the ‘Talking Horse’. That was his reference to this particular flight. Honourable members opposite may laugh about it if they wish, but those were the circumstances.
I will not go through all the details as far as my colleague the Treasurer is concerned - he will speak for himself - except to say that he is one of the most hardworking men who has ever held a ministerial portfolio. He is handling a Budget of $6,000m apart from all the other financial transactions of the Treasury. He does not travel by himself, apart from the officials. The honourable gentleman made no mention of the fact that Ministers were frequently with the Treasurer because it sometimes happens that after a delayed Cabinet meeting they go in a group together. The Treasurer is named as the applicant for the flight and that is why he has clocked up such a record. He is the applicant. Ministers go along with him. If we were able to save an hour a day in working time for the Treasurer, I would think that any business organisation handling that kind of money would regard the saving as very well incurred.
Reference has also been made to a gentleman who caught an aircraft that was going to pick up my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) to bring him back to Canberra, so that they could talk on the trip back to Canberra. This was presented as a flight which this man had just managed to secure for himself. If honourable members look through these records which deal with people such as Hazel Craig, members of my own personal staff and others, they will find that in every instance the positioning of the aircraft that was being used for a particular flight was sought and obtained by somebody who was entitled to secure it. I could go through a mass of detail in this regard. However, I am not going to burden the House with it. I do not know of any occasion where it can fairly be said: ‘There was an abuse in that particular instance’. I said earlier that the responsibility for this rests with my colleague, the Minister for Air, and with myself.
Finally, I wish to refer to the point made by the Leader of the Opposition about the ordering of aircraft. Well, he has a point of semantics here, and I acknowledge it. What happened was that the aircraft for the flight were decided upon by Cabinet in the period of office of my predecessor. I have never run away from that decision. I was a party to it and I approved of it. But once the Cabinet decision had been taken, so far as I was concerned the matter was in the machine. I did not care when the aircraft were ordered. That was a job for the Minister for Air. The decision had been taken, and if the honourable gentleman wants this strictly on the record, as it should be, I make an amendment and say that no aircraft for the VIP flight was decided upon and added to that flight during my period as Prime Minister of Australia. I hope that satisfies him.
Let me just turn to the other matter which is, I believe, of some importance to this country constitutionally. I refer to the quite arrogant statement-
– Can you deal with the statement that the material was not available?
– Yes, 1 am coming to that. T still have nearly 25 minutes left, even without an extension of time.
– And you are uphill.
– Well, 1 have been uphill most of my life and 1 have got to the summit. I doubt that any honourable member opposite will ever get to it. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in opening his speech said this:
Responsible government means thai the Government is responsible for its administration to each House of the Parliament For that purpose each House has an undoubted authority to require the Government to answer questions and to supply records bearing upon that administration. Each House is entitled to full and truthful disclosure by the Government. To deny this is to repudiate responsible government; to depart from it is to break down responsible government.
The point I want to make is that it is the duty of a government to give as much information as it can which will be of assistance to either of the two chambers. Neither chamber has authority to require of an executive the tabling or presentation of documents or information which the government feels it would be against the public interest to table or present, or the tabling or presentation of which would constitute a breach of confidence which the government should preserve. But take this statement of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate - an arrogant statement, I repeat - at its face value. He could demand the tabling of Cabinet minutes or of Cabinet documents. Of course he has no authority to do this. Or he could demand the tabling of confidential exchanges between the Premier of any State and the Prime Minister. Mr Odgers, the Clerk of the Senate, who has never been laggard in presenting the claims of that chamber, has had something to say on this matter which I regard of some constitutional importance. That is why I mention it. I quote from his book Australian Senate Practice’ at page 428:
Upon a motion being agreed to for the tabling of Papers, the Clerk transmits a copy of the resolution to the responsible Department. The Paper is then delivered to the Clerk of the Senate, and by him laid on the table. The practice of moving for the tabling of papers was more common in the early years of the Senate.
Then some precedents are given, and Mr Odgers continues:
The question may one day arise: What happens if the Senate orders the production of certain papers and the responsible Minister refuses to table such papers? Technically, disobedience to the orders of the Senate is a contempt of the House. However, it is an issue yet to be resolved as to whether the Senate would take the matter further if, notwithstanding an order of the Senate, a Minister claimed he was entitled to refuse to table papers on the ground that certain documents were of & confidential nature or that disclosures would not be in the public interest.
I am going to quote to the House - because, as a person who has been a member of this chamber for very many years and who is jealous of its rights and of the rights of a democratically elected Government I want it on the record - a statement made by the Minister for Education in the Tasmanian House of Assembly on 17th May 1960. This is a statement that I think might well be adopted as sound policy in this chamber. It is in these terms:
The particular practice which has caused the Government to consider this matter is the practice of requiring the return of a departmental file or of all papers and correspondence relating to a particular matter. If acceded to, such an order would bring before the House a number of papers some of which may be of a kind which should not be disclosed. The Minister is entitled to oppose an order for the tabling of papers of that kind, and if an order is made in the same circumstances he is entitled to refuse to comply with it.
Considerations of public policy and a due regard for the interests of the State may require the Minister to withhold information either sought for or ordered to be returned. Were it otherwise, it would be impossible to carry on the Government with safety and honour. To disclose certain information may endanger the interests of the State or of individuals whose conduct or affairs are not in question, and to disclose information given in confidence would be dishonourable and, moreover, would stop any more information being given in confidence. The Minister concerned must of necessity take responsibility for decisions on these matters and so long as the House gives him its confidence its confidence must extend to such decisions. The same principles which apply to giving information to the House apply to select committees, which are not entitled to information which the House cannot demand or receive.
It is possible that on some occasions a Minister would be willing to make available in his office, or some other appropriate place, a file or particular document for perusal by members of the House, thus avoiding publishing the file or documents by laying them on the table of the House.
I desire to make it clear to the House, however, that the Government has no wish to withhold from the House any information it is entitled to and that Ministers will not, without very good reason, refuse it any information.
Having read that, Sir, I say that I agree with the sentiments expressed. So far as it has been within my capacity, I have sought to give to this House the information that it required. That brings me to the matter on which the Leader of the Opposition has dwelt in relation to the answers supplied to the question which was asked in this place by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) but which actually followed in point of time, as I recall it. a question asked in the other place by Senator Gair, the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. The interesting thing that the House will find about this business is that the answer given by us was not one that somebody could interpret as an answer protecting the position of the Government. In point of fact, it was an answer to a question asked by Senator Gair about use made by the then Leader of the Opposition of an aircraft on a flight to Western Australia and the people whom he took with him. The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party asked about this. I suppose that if the Government had had . the information readily available and had wanted to score some point off the Opposition, it could have said: ‘Here is the information. This is what it is’. But the answer given at the time was that the particulars were not available.
I hope that I do not do the honourable member for Grayndler an injustice, but he put his question during a period when he had ideas - not for his own advancement for he is, perhaps, too modest for that - that some change in the leadership of the Australian Labor Party might be desirable. When he put his question on notice, rightly or wrongly, it was freely interpreted at the time as another attempt to give a bit of a nudge to the then Leader of the Opposition.
Opposition members - Oh!
– The honourable gentleman received that same comment by way of reply.
I move on from there to the answers given to Senator Turnbull, who had put several questions on the notice paper in another place. I tried to make available the detail that could be secured. I may say that the practice, as is well known in this House, is normally for a department to prepare a draft of an answer, submit it the the Minister and for the Minister then to settle his draft which is initialled by him and comes into the House. My own Department, which is asked questions which feed out into virtually every Department of state in one form or another, has to lean very heavily on the information supplied by the other department concerned. When the questions had been asked by Senator Turnbull - and I repeat that I mentioned a little earlier - I felt that before they were answered in detail, because to take them as they stood could result in the giving of misleading information, I should make a statement to the House. I set out, then, the way in which the fleet operated, the background to it and the history of it. The House will be familiar with those circumstances. Indeed, previously, as I told the House only the other day, the then Leader of the Opposition has notified my predecessor that the then Prime Minister would not find the then Leader of the Opposition questioning his use of the VIP fleet. After I had made my first statement neither the Leader of the Opposition, nor any of his colleagues, saw fit to take the opportunity then presented to discuss the matter. I believe I interpret their attitude correctly. As of that time honourable members opposite recognised the operation of the fleet as a necessary adjunct of modern government, as it is in so many other countries of the world.
In between the time that I made that statement and the next one the honourable senators had been busy. They could see some political mileage in this, particularly with a Senate election forthcoming. Somewhat half-heartedly, when I had made my second statement, the Leader of the Opposition rose and made some comment. As I recall it, the principal ground of criticism was the Government’s purchase of the B ACI Ils, a matter that I dealt with by way of reply. The honourable member for Hindmarsh followed the Leader of the Opposition. His principal complaint was about the frequency of the use made of the aircraft by the Treasurer. The honourable member confirmed that this facility should be available for the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. He believed that it should not be used too frequently by other Ministers, and in particular it should not be used by junior Ministers except in some abnormal circumstance.
In my first statement I had said that I would examine the feasibility of getting costing done on this. I was not looking to conceal information; I was looking for ways and means by which this Parliament could be supplied with additional information on which there could be some periodical scrutiny of the costs of the service and some discussion as to how it operated. That statement was, I think I can reasonably state, well received in the House and produced only , these two speeches of a not very penetrating kind from the Leader of the Opposition and his colleague. At that time, in addition to giving the story about dissection of costs, we dredged through the information available, or so I was given to understand, and I tabled a document which, of its very nature, was too unwieldy to incorporate m Hansard and said that the House could see the details which this statement produced.
The matter then went to the other place. Honourable senators were not satisfied with the information that had been supplied. They said: ‘No. We want details about passengers.’ It was in relation to the point about passengers that in each of the answers we said that the details were not available. To the best of my knowledge and understanding they were not available. I had always been given to understand that details of passengers were not kept for any length of time but were destroyed shortly afterwards because they were kept mainly for safety and recording purposes.
The official book which is preserved, and preserved for a continuing period of years, is what is known as the Flight Authorisation Book. I have a copy of it here in my hand. I saw it for the first time last night. I did not know of the existence of this book or of the manifests which I also have here - manifests of a similar form if not related to identically the same matters, were tabled in the Senate - until my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), told me that he would be tabling this information in addition to what I had already supplied following the request from honourable senators for papers. I inform the House, and I think the louse will accept my statement, that the first time I knew of the existence either of this Flight Authorisation Book or of these manifests was when this was mentioned to me by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The first time that I actually set eyes on them in this form was last night when I asked the Secretary of the Department of Air if he could make them available to me for inspection.
Honourable members will find that this Flight Authorisation Book sets out in considerable detail matters such as action before flight, action after flight, serial number of order, date, type and number of aircraft, pilot or pilots, navigator, crew, the duty or practice ordered, time ordered to start, duration of flight, initials of flight commander ordering flight, initials of pilot that he understands the order, time of take off, time landed, day or night, task training sequence, DCO - whatever that means - and initials of pilot as having reported to flight commander on landing. That book contains no details of passengers except that where a VIP flight is involved it mentions the name of the Minister applying for the flight. If the Leader of the Opposition cares to look at this book he will see that many of the tasks listed are not VIP tasks but tasks associated with the operation of No. 34 Squadron - training flights, the instrument landing system and so on.
I now refer to the manifests. These do set out the lists of passengers. Copies are made so that when a flight goes from one point to another a copy is left at the departure point and one is retained by the Squadron. If any amendment is necessary because of changes in the passenger composition then adjustments are made. Originally I was told that these were not kept for any great length of time and that the time they were kept might vary. I understand that there is an order that they should be kept for 12 months. How far that order is strictly observed 1 am in no position to say. But I have been told by the Secretary of the Department of Air that because once these manifests are used by the Squadron they are then used by other sections of the Air Force from time to time, it is doubtful if more than 70% of them can be put together in one heap at any one point of time. Others are scattered right throughout the Air Force for various purposes. They may be in the possession of a person checking on the instrument landing system, a person checking on the hours the aircraft has flown or a person checking for any other purpose. I do not claim to be a technician in Air Force matters; I am merely passing on what the Secretary of Air informed me. He only put the figure of 70% as a guess because nobody could be authoritative about it. The Secretary would not claim more than about 80% accuracy for the detail shown on the manifests themselves because of sudden changes in movement. The Leader of the Opposition gave an example of this himself when he said that a Mr Wyndham was shown on a manifest. I understand from the Leader of the Opposition that Mr Wyndham did not travel at the time; nevertheless he is shown on the manifest.
– He has never travelled in VIP aircraft with me.
– I am merely making the point that these things are not necessarily precise and it has never been claimed that they are precise. I am not going to prejudge what the Minister for Air will have to say about these allegations. We have a good tradition in Australia that before we find a man culpable we give him a chance to speak in his own defence and to make his own explanation. The Leader of the Opposition has launched a no confidence motion against me, against the Minister for Air and against the Treasurer, but the Minister for Air has not yet had an opportunity to give his explanation. 1 admit readily to the House that 1 am troubled by the fact that answers were given in a form which did not accord with information which the Government itself has supplied. I emphasise that point; this was not something that was found somewhere around the country; we supplied this information as soon as we knew it was available and we did it after consultation between the Leader of the Government in the Senate and myself. We were not trying to conceal this information from the Parliament.
Information on this’ matter can be misleading. The Leader of the Opposition was shown, as he will recall, as having had relatively few flights compared with the Treasurer. In point of fact if we apply the tests of hours in the air or mileage flown the result is not quite the same. We find that the Leader of the Opposition flew about 60% of the mileage flown by the Treasurer - if positioning is taken into account - and had about 80% of the Treasurer’s time in the air. Yet on the facts which were given the House in quite good faith - but with the warning that they could be misleading - one gets the picture of eight flights made by the Leader of the Opposition as against fifty-four flights made by the Treasurer. I just make known to the House the problem which the Minister for Air has had in facing up to these matters. He wanted to give accurate information. He was asked about passengers. It may be that he felt that because of the incompleteness and, to a degree, the inaccuracy of these records he could not validly say that a list of passengers was available. I am not trying to interpret what his thinking was in the matter. I merely say, for myself and for the Government, that we have tried to keep the House fully informed. Of course, I will seek an opportunity to discuss with the Minister for Air how this matter developed. As a result of that discussion I hope to make such further information as arises available to the public and to members of both Houses of this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion of no confidence. The effect of that motion would be, if carried, to throw this Government out of office and to put into Parliament and into government honourable gentlemen opposite, whose policies represent such a gulf of thinking between ourselves and themselves, and which were rejected wholeheartedly by the Australian people, that on a sober consideration of the facts I have no doubt about the position this House will take.
– I feel, after hearing what the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has said by way of apologia, that if the House had confidence in him before it certainly will not have it now. Honourable members in this House, people in the Gallery and people throughout Australia who will be listening to the debate will have the opportunity to contrast the leadership and the leaders that we offer with the Prime Minister and this Government.
Sir, the right honourable gentleman’s defence is one of the weakest that has been put up by a Prime Minister since Federation. It is the reply of a mini-Prime Minister. Abuse, bluster and equivocation have been his mainstays. He made quite a touching reference to being engaged in military operations. In his speech today the first casualty has been truth. His statements were those of a man with his back to the wall. May I remind honourable members that it was rebels of the Prime Minister’s own Party - quite a number of them - who combined with the Opposition in the Senate to force this situation. It was only as a result of the threat of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) to call to the bar of the Senate a senior public servant that finally we got the whole truth, or sufficient of the truth to astonish the Australian people.
The Prime Minister made great play of a rather delicate constitutional position as to the rights of the Senate in ordering the tabling of papers. Were these documents and papers not in the public interest? Would any honourable member deny that they were in the public interest? As an example of his political casuistry he said that the Opposition could not complain about inaccurate answers because we have no right to ask for the papers on which the answers are to be given. His approach is authoritarian. It is the approach of a man who believes that he is a Prime Minister by Divine Right. We indict this Government. We arraign it before the court of public opinion; at the grand assize of the Australian nation. The charges are deliberate deception of Parliament, deliberate deception of the Australian people, giving false information, giving misleading information, suppression of the truth, equivocation, hypocrisy and contempt for the very institution of Parliament. No more serious charges than those could be laid against any government or any Prime Minister. They represent an attack on his veracity. The right honourable gentleman challenges us to attack his veracity. We will debate this issue with him in the forum of the Australian people at the forthcoming Senate elections. Let him then make the same limping reply that he has made here and put up with the consequences. It will be his political annihilation. The Government is on trial for its existence. I know that what I say is upsetting to Government supporters, and this is why they are interjecting. But what I say is true, and they know it. Their interruptions will not divert me from my speech.
The Opposition would be recreant to its trust if it failed to expose the Government’s duplicity and deceitfulness on this issue. We have acted with a full sense of responsibility to defend and restore, if possible, the tattered image of Australian parliamentary democracy. The credibility gap between the Government and the Australian people and between the Prime Minister and the Australian people has never been wider than it is now and it cannot be bridged. It is the people of Australia who finally will decide this issue, not the vote of this House. It is the people of Australia who will decide this issue at the forthcoming Senate elections and who will pass judgment on this Government and on the credibility of its Prime Minister, its Minister for Air and its Treasurer. The Prime Minister spoke of the fantastic vote of confidence which the people had given the Government on an emotional issue. The Government’s fall will be correspondingly great when the people of Australia have their opportunity to express their contempt of its untruths and prevarication. The instinct and capacity for self-government and traditional parliamentary procedures is the most outstanding attribute of the Englishspeaking people. We speak of Westminster as the Mother of Parliaments. As a result of today’s proceedings will other nations speak of Canberra as the parent of parliamentary prevarication if this stigma is not removed and the good name and prestige of Australian parliamentary government restored by the extirpation of this Government?
The Ministry no longer deserves to hold the royal commission to govern. It is no longer a government; it is a conspiracy of prevarication, a conspiracy of silence - arrogant, incompetent, fatuous, smug, scheming and conniving. The issue being debated is not of recent development. In May 1966 the matter was first raised by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly). This matter has been festering in the minds of members of the Government ever since. In May 1966, replying to a question on notice asked by the honourable member for Grayndler, the Prime Minister said:
After aflight is completed the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long. For similar reasons, no records are kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight have taken VIP passengers. The answers to these questions are thus not available.
The first part of the answer was misleading and the second part was untrue. Falsehood has been piled on falsehood throughout this issue. Questions have been asked not once, not twice, but by many parliamentarians. They have been asked month by month. They have been repeated. The Government has relied on dissimulation and reticence. Worse, it has cynically, coldly, craftily and with utter indifference to the truth and without regard to elementary standards of public morality, done its utmost to thwart the will of this House and of another place. It has donesofloutingtherightsofparlia- mentarians to secure information in the public interest.
The questions that have been asked on notice have been well and carefully framed. As to the existence of the records, will the Prime Minister deny that they have been in existence for many years. The flight authorisation book produced in the Parliament goes back to 1965. I understand that it has been a long-standing practice within the Department concerned to keep such books. Does the Prime Minister deny that he had full knowledge of this when he gave his first answer? Does he deny that he had full knowledge of it when he made his statement in Parliament last week? What is his answer to these charges?
In the Senate the situation reached a climax on Friday last when we had the. ludicrous spectacle of one Minister contradicting another. I can well imagine what went on behind the scenes at the Liberal Party meeting this morning and the recriminations there. Was there ever an occasion before in the history of Parliament in any English-speaking country when, within a few minutes, one Minister would table documents flatly contradicting answers given by his colleague on the same issue?
– Has the honourable member lost his place?
– The Minister will lose more than his place, I would say, before this issue is finished. What were the reasons behind the Government’s reticence? Was it a matter of indifference or a matter of callousness? The Prime Minister made great play on the Government’s remarkable role and its remarkable burden of defence and foreign policy. But were not the real reasons something of this nature, that these VIP flights were a charge on the defence vote to the Department of Air, as were also the purchase of the VIP aircraft, the cost of their maintenance and the cost of their operations all a charge on defence? The Government paid $21m for their purchase - double the original estimate. Was that the reason for the Government’s real reluctance to give information, or were there other reasons of a personal nature? I think plenty has been said on that and I believe that the Australian people are fully aware of the situation in that regard. In point of fact the VIP flight has been an aerial taxi fleet charged to the defence vote by a government which claims all the virtues of record defence expenditure. This leads to a further issue.
We have heard solemn assurances from the Minister for Air in this House on many occasions about the virtues of the Fill. In the light of his rather doubtful credibility on this particular Issue, what store do we set on his assurances about this other celebrated aircraft which has not arrived. The further the people of Australia see this matter probed into the more there is on which to criticise the Government. In that regard the comment of the ‘Sun Herald’ on Sunday last is of great significance. Under a heading The Fleets Mount Up’ an article stated:
The Government, pursued, and very properly, by eager Opposition questions, has had to do a lot of soul-searching about the use of VIP planes.
The result has been far more information than Mr Holt at first thought it possible to unearth.
And names such as Paddy first cook and Hazel housemaid have decorated Hansard and will pass into immortality. They win be remembered not as appealing names te a human story but as symbols of -the struggle between a vigilant Legislature and an extravagant Executive when the question becomes a footnote to future political science discussion.
Then there is this new problem which has been unearthed. It appears that there is another VIP fleet under the control of the Department of Civil Aviation and that that fleet is quite a remarkable one in its own right. It is valued at some $20m.
– That is not correct; it is valued at only $3m.
– I dare say a little fiddling of value can be done with depreciation. But whatever the value, here are the details: There is one Hawker Siddeley twin jet, three Fokker F27s, one DC3, four Aero Commanders, three Beechcraft Bonanzas - quite appropriately named - two Cessnas, one Piaggio, one Victa Airtourer and one Piper Cherokee. Were these the reason why the Government was reluctant to give information to the House? Is this the reason why the Government deliberately thought it could brazen out the whole issue, why it thought it could clam up and close up? The Government is strongly contemptuous of Parliament and it is contemptuous of the rights and principles of parliamentary government. It brazened out this matter to a point where members of the Government parties in the Senate were prepared to vote with the Opposition to ensure that at least the people of Australia learn the truth. This Government deserves censure and it deserves contempt. It deserves to be tipped out of office unceremoniously. This issue will bc one of the first major steps towards its destruction.
– I think the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) let the cat out of the bag when he stated that the Opposition wanted to treat this motion now before the House as the issue on which the next elections were to be fought. Consequently, it appears transparently obvious that the poor unfortunate fellow hopes that he will be able to divert attention away from what was to have been the main subject of debate here tonight; that was the issue of the freedom and security of the whole of the South East Asian area. It so happens that his leader (Mr Whitlam) was outwitted and he has not been able to succeed in his purpose. Nonetheless it does become obvious that this is purely a political gesture and that there are no facts, or very few facts, on which the Opposition can base an accusation against the Government. What a strange thing it is that the Leader of the Opposition should have permitted himself to have been worked into the position where he has had to make this attack upon the Government today. He had an opportunity a few weeks ago to reply to the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) first, on our additional commitment to South Vietnam and, later, on the Prime Minister’s answer on the use of VIP aircraft. But he did not take those opportunities. Instead he saw in the Senate his arch enemy, the fellow who is trying to take control of the Australian Labor Party out of his hands, Senator - I have forgotten his name-
– I thought it was an Irish name much the same as mine. The Leader of the Opposition saw this gentleman taking control of this debate out of his hands. This supine and unfortunate creature found that he could not control the Senate or the way Opposition members threw out all the muck they possibly could in an attempt to create a bad impression in the minds of the Australian people and to prevent the facts being known.
The first point that I want to draw to the attention of honourable members is the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. His accusation was based on three counts. He accused three Ministers of untrue and misleading statements. First let me speak about the Prime Minister. I do not think there is a member of this House, and there are not many members of the Australian public, who would think that the Prime Minister of this country, Mr Harold Holt, could ever be guilty of untrue and misleading statements. We know him as an honest man. We know his willingness always to provide information if it is practicable to do so. We know his wish to turn round and give all the information he can to the Opposition on which it can base a future course of action. Therefore to accuse him of misleading and untrue statements is wrong and is an accusation which I believe will meet with ridicule in the eyes of the Australian public.
I turn now to myself and what the honourable gentleman has said about me. Already the Prime Minister has said of the Leader of the Opposition that if ever there was a man lacking in credibility, whose statements always had to be tested to find out where the truth lay, it was the Leader of the Opposition. But what did the Leader of the Opposition say about me? He accused me of making untrue and misleading statements. He claimed that I had said:
Frequently 1 use VIP flights so that officials can come with me so that they can discuss with me matters requiring my immediate attention.
I want honourable members to note that he used the words ‘frequently I use VIP flights so that officials can come with me’. He had Hansard in front of him and if he had repeated accurately what I had said I could understand it. But what did I say in answer to the question of the honourable member for Hindmarsh? It is recorded in Hansard that I said:
Whenever 1 feel it is desirable-
I take officials of my Department with me to explain the contents of documents.
Here we find a different statement from the misleading statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. Consequently we see a case of deliberate untruth, or somebody has given him the bump steer - probably the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who now wants to follow me in the debate.
– A naughty word.
– 1 said ‘bump’.
– The honourable gentleman said ‘bum’.
-] said ‘bump’. The honourable member would think of bums, but I said ‘bump’. Now let me come to the facts. On one occasion the honourable gentleman said 1 had used the aircraft forty-eight times and on another occasion that I had used them fifty-four times. When he made those statements I did not have the opportunity to look at the authorisation book or the flight manifests, but what I did was to ask my departmental officials to prepare a report for me showing what in fact had been done. The honourable gentleman said I had taken officials with me on only four occasions and that only one official travelled with me in an aircraft. Let us test the accuracy of what he said. Both statements are untrue; both are false. Looking through the figures as quickly as I can I see that one of the Deputy Secretaries of the Treasury has travelled with me on one occasion. The gentleman referred to by the Leader of the Opposition as not being a senior officer happens to be the Chief Finance Officer of the Loans and Investment Branch. He has travelled with me not on four but on six occasions. On my staff I have a permanent officer who is the Senior Finance Officer of the Commerce and Industry Branch of the Treasury. He has travelled with me on thirty-four occasions. If the honourable gentleman had wanted to test the facts he could have come to me, I would have given them to him and he would not have made the mistake. But he made the untrue and misleading statements.
He did not bother to find out the facts but made untruthful statements. By doing so he has brought discredit on this House. If anybody has been guilty of deception and of making misleading statements, he has, and I believe that the honourable gentleman from Hindmarsh is the cause of most of his trouble.
Let me make one or two other points. As the Prime Minister pointed out, I am a fairly senior Minister; I am third in Cabinet seniority. Sometimes when I travel by aircraft with other Ministers I order the aircraft. I find that on at least eight occasions in the forty-eight or fifty-four that the honourable gentleman has mentioned, other Ministers travelled with me. Consequently, they also are involved in the authorisation list. But not a word of this was brought out by the Leader of the Opposition. He dealt perfunctorily with this problem. He dealt with it hesitatingly, snowing how reluctant he was to embark on this debate because of his own vulnerability and because of his own use of aircraft on very high mileage trips. I do not want to concentrate on that point at the moment, because I do not want to come down to the level of the Opposition and of such men as the honourable member for Hindmarsh and the Leader of the Opposition. We will stand on our record and on the statement I have just made.
Now let me describe what I consider to be the appropriate and proper use of these aircraft. They are called VIP aircraft. I do not like the title but nonetheless it is used.
– No, not for me, but for the Leader of the Opposition. The aircraft are there for the use of very busy Ministers who find that time is very short and who have pressing obligations to meet. I must maintain control of every submission to Cabinet. I deal with nearly every Cabinet submission as Chairman of the General Administration Committee of Cabinet. I believe that it is my responsibility to get my work done as quickly as I possibly can. If I hold up a decision or if I hold up a Cabinet submission because I am not aware of its contents, the whole work of the Government will slow down and my col leagues will wonder what on earth has happened and why the Treasurer cannot keep up the work and keep the business of Cabinet moving along. So I make no apology whatever for using these aircraft when in my judgment it is wise and when in my judgment it is in the interests of the country to do so. I do not like leaving Canberra until I have signed every letter on my table. If it means that I must wait until late at night or come back on Friday to do the job, I do so. If I find that it is much more convenient for me to get a VIP aircraft than to wait for a civil aircraft and my judgment tells me that it is right and proper to do so, I ask the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) whether he can arrange for me to have one. Usually he finds it practicable to do so. I consider that this is the answer to the claim made by the Opposition members.
May I come to a question that I consider should be answered now? I was not aware until a few days ago that we had what are called personnel manifests and that there were flight authorisations. I had never seen one until today when they were produced in the Cabinet room. I do not know how the two errors mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition were made and I do not think that they can be properly explained until the Minister for Air is here and can tell us how the answers to the questions were provided and give us the meaning of the words that were used. But I believe that there is only one bar of it that in truth has to be answered and that is the statement that the details of passenger flights and the destinations were not available.
May I now say something about the Minister for Air. He has worked with me for some time as the Assistant to me in the Treasury. He has a pretty big job to do and without him I would not be able to do my job effectively and quickly. I want to point out to the House some of the tasks that he performs. He is responsible for superannuation matters, the administration of defence forces retirement benefit matters, furlough, compensation, general insurance, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act, civil works administration and representations on sales tax. In the General Administration Committee of Cabinet he handles Tariff Board matters on my behalf. As well, he has performed magnificently as a senior representative to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Here is a man who is a prodigious worker, a man who gives all he oan to the administration not only of his portfolio but in addition to his duties as assistant to me. I know him to be diligent, painstaking and persevering. I know that he studies the details with immaculate care. Consequently I for one would not be willing to pass judgment on this apparent mistake until I have heard from him exactly what happened and whether a mistake has in fact been made. So I will leave that aspect until he comes home. Then he will be responsible to the Prime Minister and will give his information to the Prime Minister. -
I want to mention one other matter about the Leader of the Opposition who was, I believe, injudicious in introducing this debate. Let us look at the flight schedules and make a comparison of the times he has used the aircraft with the times that I have used them. Admittedly, I have used the aircraft on more occasions than he has, but I have used them mainly for trips between Canberra and Sydney or Sydney and Canberra, ft must be obvious, too, that I come here to Canberra to do my job. When I go to Sydney I usually go to my office or work at home on the administration of my portfolio. In other words, my time is very nearly fully employed on administration and Government work and frequently, too, on the work of my Party. But the Leader of the Opposition has no responsibilities of that kind and he uses the VIP aircraft for peculiarly political purposes. Let us look at the hours that are flown in the air. He has flown 80% of the hours that I have, although he has been the Leader of the Opposition for a much shorter period than I have been the Treasurer. Then let us look at total time, including positioning of aircraft. This includes the time taken flying to the Minister. My record on this aspect is better than that of the Leader of the Opposition. As I have said, I remain here until I have written all my letters, until I have signed all the letters that are ready for my signature and until I have gone through all the minutes that are essential if the work of the Treasury is to be done effectively.
So, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am puzzled and bewildered that in a matter of this kind - one that involves an obvious mistake and where we must wait for the Minister himself to give the explanation, that the Opposition should have turned the motion into a general debate against the Government’s policy on VIP aircraft rather than await the Minister’s return. I believe it is first of all a political gesture. I believe too that the Leader of the Opposition has got a little frightened of the power and influence of Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I ask the Australian people, as I ask honourable members sitting in this House, to remember the facts - to remember that it is getting close to a Senate election and that the Opposition is playing politics in the worst way. The Leader of the Opposition stands condemned, first, for being untruthful and of being misled then on the issue of playing politics in the basest way I have known since I have been a member of this House.
– It does not give me much pleasure to contend that the Government lacks the confidence of the Parliament and to have to rest my case on the fact that the lack of confidence is due to our doubting the veracity of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and of two Ministers of the Government, rt is true, as the Prime Minister said, that on numerous occasions motions expressing lack of confidence in the Government have been moved in the Parliament, but never in the Parliament’s whole history - as the Prime Minister, pretending to make a strong point, correctly stated - that a Parliament has been asked to debate a motion of no confidence based upon the belief that the Prime Minister and two Ministers of the Parliament were not telling the truth. If the allegation is true - and I will refer to this in a moment in order to prove that the allegation is true - and it can be proved that it is true then, as in the case of Profumo, no Minister or Prime Minister is entitled to sit or is fit to sit in the Parliament as a Minister of the Crown. If the Parliament cannot believe what the Prime Minister or any Minister tells it, then the Parliament has the right to reject them. No Prime Minister over whom a shadow of doubt rests ought to have the audacity to continue to occupy the position.
Profumo was not obliged to leave Parliament because he had had a relationship with Christine Keeler. The reason Profumo was obliged to resign- and as a gentleman he accepted the obligation to resign as a Minister - was that he had lied to the Parliament. He had deliberately lied to the Parliament. When a Minister will lie to the collective elected representatives of the whole nation, surely it is elementary that that Minister no longer has the right to occupy a position of trust. What we must determine now is whether it is true, as alleged in the Senate and by the leading newspapers of this country, that the Prime Minister lied; whether it is true that the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) lied; and whether it is true that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), if not lying, misrepresented the truth to the Parliament. If it can be proved that they did lie, then they ought not to wait for a vote on this motion, they ought to voluntarily retire and resign as would any honourable man and as did Profumo - not exactly an honourable man but one who was prepared to show enough honour not to continue to represent Her Majesty the Queen in the Parliament of Great Britain.
We have listened for 75 minutes to the Prime Minister and to the Treasurer, and so far they have not answered the charge. Instead, the Treasurer spent the whole of his time in diversionary tactics. He did not answer this most serious of all charges that can be levied against a member or Minister. He said that the use of the aircraft was justified. He spent nearly all his time in trying to say: ‘Look, we are justified in using the aircraft.’ But this motion does not deal with the rights or wrongs of the use to which the aircraft have been put. The motion is not concerned with whether or not the use of VIP aircraft has been abused. The motion concerns the most serious allegation that can be made against a Minister - that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia has lied to the elected representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in this Parliament. It is also alleged that the Minister for Air has lied to the Parliament and that the Treasurer has misrepresented the true facts to the Parliament. These allegations have not been answered. Unless they are answered then, in spite of the fact that the Government will use its majority in this chamber to get a superficial and artificial victory, the fact will remain that they will go down as stained men, no longer entitled to the confidence of the people. How can anybody accept the word of the Prime Minister on anything at all if he cannot acquit himself of this serious charge? How can we believe the word of the Minister for Air unless he can acquit himself?
The Prime Minister talked about the Government’s standing on defence matters. This was one of the first topics he mentioned. What was he trying to do? He was trying to divert this debate on the issue of whether he lied in the Parliament to the question of whether the Opposition has a better policy than the Government has on defence. This motion, I repeat, is not concerned with whether our defence policy is better than the Government’s defence policy; the question we are considering is simple. We must determine whether the Prime Minister lied to the Parliament. So far the allegation has not been answered. Indeed, the Treasurer, by inference, suggested that the Minister for Air had lied because he said - and I use his words - that there were errors. . A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Honourable members can call it an error if they like, but the fact is the error was a lie on someone’s part, and they cannot deny it. The Minister’s answer was not given off the cuff, take heed. It was given in answer to a longstanding question on the notice paper. It was not a question in answering which the Minister could claim to have been caught off balance or caught unexpectedly. It was an answer carefully prepared, carefully given, and delivered with all the solemnity of a ministerial answer to a question in the Parliament of this Commonwealth.
Before reverting to the Prime Minister, I want to deal with the previous Speaker in this debate, the Treasurer. He contented himself by saying: ‘Who would doubt our Prime Minister? Who would suggest that this man could possibly tell an untruth?’ Of course, at one time there were some people who could not doubt, and did not doubt, the loyalty of a man named Philby about whom, at one stage of his life, it could have been asked in the same rhetorical way: ‘Who can doubt the sincerity and’ loyalty of this great man?’ This is no answer to the positive charge we now make. We demand an answer. I want the Prime Minister or one of his Ministers to explain to my satisfaction - so far he has failed to do so - how it came about that he could categorically deny that he ordered aircraft during his time as Prime Minister when the facts are that he did. It is all very well for him now to say that this was a slip of the tongue and that he should have w id that they had considered them. It is no use after the event to come along and pretend that what he meant was something else. We are left with what is in Hansard and if this matter had not been raised in the Senate we would still have been left with the impression that this Government did not order any additional aircraft.
We have heard enough already about the abuse made of the present fleet to hope that the Government will reduce its use. We also hope that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones), who is smiling, will no longer be allowed to accompany Ministers to Adelaide in a VIP aircraft. When a proper reduction of the use of VIP aircraft is brought about there will be no need to order any additional aircraft. We regard the costs in which we are already involved as being too high anyhow.
I want to deal with the Treasurer’s allegation that my colleague the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) did not tell the truth when be alleged that the Treasurer had stated that he frequently uses VIP flights in order to talk to officials. The Treasurer cannot even tell the truth in respect of a matter that occurred less than a week ago. If he reads page 2214 of Hansard for 25th October - this is the uncorrected one - he will see that he said, in answer to a question asked by me: 1 use VIP flights to get to Canberra so that I can do my job effectively and to the best of my capacity.
These are the words the Treasurer said he did not use:
Frequently, too, I use VIP flights so that officials can come with me in order that I may discuss with them matters that require my immediate attention.
Is it now suggested that this is not a truthful recollection of what happened? I say that the Treasurer has not told the truth in respect of that more recent allegation. I say that the Minister for Air lied to the Parliament when he said that no records were kept. Senator Gorton proved that it was a lie by producing the records that the Minister for Air said did not exist. How can anyone get him out of it? What is the use of the Government saying it cannot answer that allegation because the Minister for Air is away? It was known on Friday that these allegations had been made. Why did not the Government bring the Minister here and, if necessary, send a VIP aircraft to get him, so that he could answer this serious charge? Is it because the Government regards the charge of untruthfulness and of lying as being of such little consequence that it is business as usual on the part of the one accused. This must be the case, otherwise we would have seen the Minister for Air at this time ready to take his place, lt is not too late at this stage for the Minister for Air to return before the Parliament rises. I say, moreover, that if the Minister cannot get back here before the Parliament rises, it is the duty of the Government to reconvene the Parliament immediately he does return in order that he can be examined, if that is what the Government wants. If it fails to do this we can assume - and we will be entitled to assume - that the Minister is guilty and that the Government knows he is guilty. We will be entitled to assume that the reason for his absence is to allow him to evade the accusation being levelled against him.
May I drift for a while into the mistake that the Treasurer made, concerning the use of the aircraft. Is the Treasurer going to suggest that any time he wishes to read a classified document or have to talk with another Minister or one of his departmental heads, that alone gives him the right to order a VIP flight from Sydney to Canberra. Such a proposition is so stupid that the Treasurer should not have attempted to justify it. I believe that one of the things that Ministers ought not to do is to use VIP aircraft for the purposes of thinking because the worst place in the world for thinking is up in the air. That may be the reasons for the Treasurer’s decisions embodied in the last Budget. The Treasurer attacked the Leader of the Opposition concerning his use of VIP aircraft. He said that the Leader of the Opposition uses the aircraft for Party political matters. The suggestion, again, is that the Treasurer does not do so. In this regard the Treasurer has made an untrue, false innuendo.
The Treasurer dropped a clanger in Capricornia when he attacked a person’s religion. He got into the gutter in order to try to defeat the Labor candidate for the electorate of Capricornia. The Treasurer went there in a VIP aircraft and returned in one. The Leader of the Opposition used commercial flights when he went to Capricornia. How does that measure up against the false allegation that the Treasurer has made against my leader?
– That is typical of him.
– Of course it is typical of him. The Prime Minister said that Senator Murphy had made a cowardly attack on him and this had led him to leak to the Press, through his Press officer, that he intended to make a statement in the Parliament today. The Press was more privileged that the Opposition because although we tried finally to obtain the information from the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), we could not obtain it. Members of the shadow Cabinet sat until 1 o’clock before we knew, and then we did not know positively what the Minister intended to do about it. This despite the fact that we frequently sought information. We could not get it. We were told that the Cabinet was still in session. Of course it was. The Ministers were in a desperate fix over this. They were in session trying to find ways of getting out of the trouble. We can see the resolution being arrived at. We will not answer the charges. We will throw in things about defence and sidetrack the issue as much as we can by saying we are entitled to use the aircraft.’ The debate is not concerned with whether the aircraft should be used or not. I remind the House that the debate is whether the Prime Minister lied, whether the Minister for Air lied and whether the Treasurer lied and is lying to the Parliament. These charges have not been answered to our satisfaction. Senators have said that the Prime Minister did lie. To call a statement of fact a cowardly attack is to my idea stretching the meaning of words completely.
I want to say to both previous speakers from the Government side and to future speakers that they ought to remember that abuse is no substitute for argument and that we do not want a lot of abuse here today. We want the Government to answer charges.
– The honourable member should apologise then.
– I am sorry that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) has interjected. I wanted to say to him - I could not think of a way to fit it in - that he also uses VIP aircraft quite a lot, but they are not on the ordinary manifest; it comes under the Department of Civil Aviation.
The Treasurer went on to say that the Leader of the Opposition did not tell the truth about the bombing of North Vietnam and so on. What a ridiculous statement. The Leader of the Opposition has not told untruths about these things and the Treasurer knows it. He is trying to use diversionary tactics. He is like a drowning man, clutching at any straw. He says: ‘Will I get out of it by clutching this straw? No. I am sinking again. I will clutch at this one and see if I can save myself. But he sinks. The Treasurer and the Government have indeed sunk so low into the quagmire that nothing but a miracle will get them out of it.
How true were these words of Scott:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
If only the Prime Minister had told the truth in the first place this matter would have been finished with. If only the Minister for Air had admitted that records existed, and if only he bad produced the records, this would have been a dead issue. But the issue is no longer whether the use of VIP aircraft has been abused - although I think it has. The issue now is on a much higher level. It is whether the Prime Minister and other Ministers of this Government have lied to the Parliament.
– That is the thirty-fifth time you have said that.
– And it is not the last time I will say it, and if you can prove that it is not true as many times as I say it is true you will be doing an excellent job.
– The honourable member said he was going to prove it.
– Of course I can prove it. The proof is that the Prime Minister said that the fleet was ordered as far back as 1965. The Prime Minister said that he did not order the aircraft. That, I say, is an untruth. Whether it is a lie I do not know, but it is an untruth. The Prime Minister said that there were no records, and the Minister for Air said that there were no records. That, Sir, is certainly a lie, because it was said in answer to a question on notice. The Minister cannot escape responsibility by saying that he was misled by the Department. Listen to what a leading article in today’s ‘Canberra Times’ had to say about this, and let every Minister remember this: ]( someone within, a Minister’s department Get us say) supplies him with wrong information, and tie supplies it to the Parliament, how far should the Minister be held personally accountable”! The most likely answer, surely is - all the way.
This has been an accepted principle of parliamentary government.
A Minister’s job is to get the information that the Parliament may reasonably require, and if the Parliament cannot trust him to do that accurately, then it is entitled to take a grim view of him. If he is allowed as a matter of course to climb out through the Public Service, then no doubt in time we should be hearing lamer excuses again. In plain fact Ministers are answerable to Parliament for every word spoken and act performed in their capacity as Ministers. If they can fall back on the Public Service when things go wrong, at some time or another public servants will be in the unhappy position of being called before the Parliament to testify to the veracity or otherwise of their Ministers. The only answer is for Ministers to shoulder the responsibility themselves.
The article says further:
It is no miserable academic debating point but a question at the heart of the parliamentary system. If indeed Parliament has been misinformed then the question arises not only of intent but of how serious the mistake is. If a Minister unintentionally misinforms Parliament about the volume of pe»rs exported . . . no-one is likely to care a hoot. But if he intentionally misleads Parliament about a matter of national moment, a graver breach of trust would be difficult to imagine.
We on this side of the Parliament have approached this matter in the most responsible way possible. We have made it clear that we are not now querying the use of VIP aircraft. I have made it clear, and so has my leader, that we have never queried the right of the Prime Minister and his family to use VIP aircraft whenever they want to. The Prime Minister agrees, in response to that, that similarly the Government does not query the right of the Leader of the Opposition, and presumably his family, to use VIP aircraft whenever they want to. I do not go into the point that the Prime Minister made, in response to the charge that he lied also when he said his family accompanied him on only one occasion, as to whether one’s wife may be considered one’s family, or whether the family does not begin to exist until the children and stepchildren are included. That is another matter. I do not object to tha Prime Minister’s family travelling with him. I have made that quite clear. Nothing in our motion and nothing we have said in this debate suggests that we question the right of a senior Minister to use VIP aircraft in appropriate circumstances.
The debate centres around one single issue - our belief that the Prime Minister lied to the Parliament and that the Minister for Air lied to the Parliament. We believe that when the Leader of the Government lies to the Parliament he is not fit to occupy his position. If the Government will not remove him from office of its own volition then I believe that whole Government deserves to tumble. I hope, therefore, that in the interests of decency, in the interests of parliamentary government and in the interests of serving the great Australian people who sent us to this place to represent them, this motion will be carried.
– We have just listened to a fairly typically dramatic display by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who, i;. his usual fashion, has devoted most of his time to quoting unsubstantiated material and so doing the very thing that he is accusing certain members on the Government side of doing. The whole basis of his dramatic approach to this matter was an attempt to stir up something which is quite foreign to debate in this House and to leave an impression which is an entirely erroneous one. He said that the censure motion referred to three individuals only, the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Air (Mr Howson). But of course the censure motion is not restricted to three individuals. It is a wide motion which concerns itself with the whole of governmental activity, although to some degree the wording of it is restricted to the points which have been discussed during this debate.
Quite clearly the Prime Minister this afternoon disposed of the accusations which had been so falsely made in the Senate. Quite clearly also he answered the rather timorous charges which were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) today.. The Treasurer indicated clearly exactly where he stood on this matter, and he knows that he has the full support of the Government in the stand that he has taken. Quite obviously the attack directed against the Treasurer by the honourable member for Hindmarsh was a diversionary tactic. The honourable member tried to divert attention from some of the principal points involved.
Various attacks have also been made in the Senate and in this House today on my colleague, the Minister for Air, who cannot be in the House at this time to answer the charges. I understand that he will be back in Australia at the weekend and no doubt he will have an early opportunity to reply to some of the scandalous charges that have been made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh particularly but also by other speakers both here and in the Senate. That the accusations against the Government have been completely unfounded has been shown quite clearly in this debate by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.
It was shown by the Treasurer that the Leader of the Opposition made some statements that could not stand up to the test of truth. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh believes that certain members of the Government have lied and should therefore resign, does he then agree that the Leader of the Opposition should also resign when it is shown that he has made false statements? The honourable member for Hindmarsh produced an argument that there was something sinister in the fact that the Treasurer spent some of his time referring to use of VIP aircraft by the Leader of the Opposition. But the Treasurer was referring to allegations that had been made by the honourable member in a debate in this House only a few days ago. At that time, the Treasurer had no opportunity to reply to him. So it was not new material that the Minister was replying to; he was replying to the unfounded allegations that had been made by the honourable member in this House a few days ago. This was the Minister’s first opportunity to do so.
The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who spoke earlier than the honourable member for Hindmarsh, referred to the use of aircraft. The debate was not confined to the point to which the honourable member for Hindmarsh alleged that it was confined. He claimed that it was narrowed to a specific matter. Again, as I have pointed out, this is a censure motion directed against the Government by the Opposition. It is the most serious challenge that the Opposition can offer to the Government. How can a censure motion possibly be confined to a specific point when it is a challenge to the Government? The honourable member for Hindmarsh is quite wrong in claiming that it can. He also referred to the placing of orders for aircraft before the present Prime Minister took up that office. The right honourable gentleman indicated to the House quite clearly on an earlier occasion and again today that the decision to order the new aircraft for the VIP flight was taken in 1965 during the life of the previous Government. It is obvious that the Prime Minister himself does not place orders for aircraft such as these. When approval had been given by the Cabinet for the purchase of the new machines, the Cabinet was finished with the matter from there on. It then became a matter for the Department of Air and the Minister for Air, and negotiations for the purchase of suitable aircraft were entered into almost immediately. They commenced shortly after the Cabinet decision was made in 1965. When suitable machines were decided on, written orders for them were placed during 1966, as has been indicated. That situation is clearly understood by everybody in this House, including the honourable member for Hindmarsh who tried to write something sinister into this action.
On the previous occasion, the honourable member criticised the Treasurer for the use of VIP aircraft, and he could not resist bringing up that criticism again today. The Treasurer himself has answered that criticism very conclusively in this debate. He indicated that on many occasions he uses aircraft jointly with other Ministers. The- relevant facts can be seen in the sheets summarising particulars of flights that were tabled in this chamber last week and also in the flight authorisation book that was tabled in the Senate. The accusation has been made that the Treasurer on a number of occasions had used VIP aircraft on his own and had not taken staff with him. That would be in order, of course, but if one looks through these sheets, one wm see that on practically every occasion when the Minister used a VIP machine, a number of passengers apart from himself travelled. One sheet shows 8 passengers on a flight on which he travelled, another 4, another 3, another 8 and another 5. Going through these records, one can show clearly that in every instance when the Treasurer has used a VIP aircraft, there have been other passengers. He has not on one occasion travelled on his own. In many instances, as he has pointed out, the other passengers have been members of his own stall. In some instances, they have been other Ministers.
– But this is not the issue.
– This is the matter which was raised in this House by the honourable member a few days ago and to which he has referred in the present debate. The point is, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the accusation by the honourable member today that the Treasurer used a VIP aircraft for political purposes - to go to Rockhampton to participate in the Capricornia by-election campaign - is merely another indication of the incorrect information being provided, I am sorry to say, by this gentleman who is now espousing the truth. The Treasurer did not use a VIP aircraft to go to Rockhampton for the Capricornia by-election campaign. I hope that the honourable member for Hindmarsh will see fit to apologise for his accusation in that Instance. He also stated that the weight of evidence indicated that the Prime Minister had provided incorrect information in this House. I can only refer the honourable member to the remarks made by the Prime Minister today. The honourable member did not at any time cite any facts to substantiate the statements that he has made. He merely repeated a series of cliches, using language which I would hesitate to use in this House and which, I am afraid, does much to lower the standard of debate and the standing of this House in the public eye - the very thing that he claims he wishes to maintain.
I come back now to the Leader of the Opposition. He indicated that he had material available, but he did not say that it was material provided by the Government. It is only material which has been provided by the Department of Air and which has been tabled in the Senate thai has allowed the debate on this issue to take place. As has been explained in this House on a number of occasions, there are problems associated with the provision of this material. For instance, there has been the difficulty of dissection. In view of the situation that had arisen, the Prime Minister indicated quite clearly that the Government would undertake to provide all possible material in the best possible form. That has been done. The situation that has now arisen clearly indicates the problems that can be associated with the misuse of information of this kind, because it is so easy to pick out from these sheets summarising particulars and from the squadron records some information and statistics that can be used to support argument one way or the other. This matter rests on the material that has been provided by the Government in the Senate and in this House.
It is interesting to note, as has already been mentioned, that the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), which was answered on 13 th May 1966, and the question asked in the Senate by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) related to travel by the then Leader of the Opposition. The problem of the availability of information was raised at the time. As the Prime Minister has indicated, if the Government had wished to conceal something, it certainly would not have tried to conceal information that supported any cass against the then Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Democratic Labor Party was endeavouring to obtain information to use against the then Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for Air, through the Prime Minister, had indicated certain difficulties at that time. The point is that the information that has been provided now is very substantial indeed and goes well along the road to meet the requests made by honourable senators.
I refer to one point that was raised today by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to a VIP flight which he made to Western
Australia. It was claimed in the other place that Mr Wyndham had accompanied the Leader of the Opposition on that occasion. The passenger manifest did record the names of the persons travelling at that time from Essendon to Adelaide on the way, I believe, to Western Australia. An application had been made by the Leader of the Opposition for Mr Wyndham to travel on the aircraft at the time. I believe that in the other place Senator Murphy stated that Mr Wyndham did not travel on the VIP aircraft. That statement is quite correct. Mr Wyndham’s name did appear on the manifest because the application had been made for him to travel. His name was still on the manifest when the attack was made later. The point is that the Minister for Air said that he could not approve the travel for Mr Wyndham because he had no authority to do so, although application had been made. I merely point this out to show that the manifest sheets, which are available, still do not give an entirely correct picture of the situation. As the Prime Minister indicated, the information which now is scattered around through various branches of the Royal Australian Air Force would not be available collectively in total at any one particular time. Although the information has been submitted in the other place it still cannot give the picture with 100% accuracy. One of the points made by the Minister for Air previously was the difficulty in the dissection of this information. However, as has been mentioned, the Minister for Air will return at the weekend and the problems relating to answers to questions which the Minister had cleared at the time for the Prime Minister undoubtedly will be cleared up by the Minister and the matter will be discussed by the Prime Minister and the Minister at that time. 1 pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Air. No-one knows more than I do, as I have been acting as Minister for Air for the last week or so, the amount of work and time that those officers have put in to collate this information and prepare it for presentation in the other place and in this House. Many hours have been devoted to this particular work. The officers have made a tremendous effort to have this material available for Parliament. They deserve recognition for the work that they have done in this particular field. They spent many hours of long weekend work, as well as overtime, to produce in the best possible form the material that has been required.
The honourable member for Cunningham made one reference to the aircraft which are operated by the Department of Civil Aviation. The honourable member gave a list, which I had provided, relating to the seventeen aircraft which are operated by the Department. He tried to infer, as one report appearing in the Press over the weekend inferred, that there was some sort of link between this fleet and the VIP fleet. The Department of Civil Aviation has seventeen aircraft of varying types, from single engine aircraft upward, at departmental bases throughout the States. I indicate, for the record, the role of this particular DCA fleet. The role of the fleet is first of all the provision of facilities’ for continuation training of departmental pilots - in other words, pilot training is carried out by this particular fleet, and there is no need to query this because the honourable member for Cunningham raised the matter in a debate in the House a short time ago and I am answering the question that the honourable member raised; secondly, the provision of aircraft and crews to meet search and rescue activities, accident and incident investigation requirements and also for support in cases of national emergency; thirdly, the special flight test projects connected with airworthiness control; fourthly, the research and development of special navigational equipment and other facilities; fifthly, ground radar calibration and training of radar operators; sixthly, the training of air traffic controllers and the development of special air traffic control procedures; finally, the provision of aircraft for the carriage of Commonwealth, State and other officials associated with the visits of members of the Royal family and Heads of State and also the carriage of the Minister, the Director-General and some departmental staff in connection with the administration of the Department where normal transport facilities cannot meet the needs. The availability of the aircraft for the purposes that I have indicated has made a significant contribution to the efficiency of the Department and without this facility the safety record of aviation in Australia undoubtedly would be less favourable than is the case today. I wanted to clear up those particular points which were raised by the honourable member for Cunningham during the debate.
The honourable member also raised the question of the cost of the DCA fleet. The figure that he quoted was $15m, or some figure of that order. I want to correct that statement again, as I did by way of interjection at the time. The total cost of the original aircraft, when new, was $5m and the present book value of the DCA fleet is $3m. That puts the record straight as far as the cost factor is concerned. The cost which I think the honourable member quoted from a newspaper report at about $15m, was entirely incorrect.
Although the Opposition has claimed to be on the side of maintaining the image of Parliament in the public eye, the debate has done more, in the brief time that it has been proceeding, to destroy that image. Speeches such as those that have been made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh assist in destroying that image. Parliament should deplore the action that has been taken in this regard. The material and the information which has been provided, particularly the information provided by the Prime Minister in his statement, clearly set out the position. I do not doubt that- the majority of right thinking people in Australia will accept the situation as it has been presented by the Prime Minister.
– I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), which reads:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Government because of the untrue and misleading information given by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Air in relation to the use of the VIP flight.
I read the resolution for two purposes. Firstly, I suppose it is a long time in any Parliament since such a serious motion has been moved against the Government. Secondly, I read it to bring the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) back to the matter under discussion. The speech that the Minister made should have been made on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation, so far were his comments from the motion that is being discussed. In common with other speakers on the other side of the House, from the Prime Minister down, the Minister avoided the real issue before the House and that is the integrity or veracity of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and two members of his Cabinet. Consequently I do not wonder that honourable members opposite have seen fit to evade this issue and go into al] kinds of detail, because even if the motion is not carried the Prime Minister at least should resign. It has been proved beyond doubt that false and misleading information has been given to members of Parliament and for that the Prime Minister himself is responsible.
The Leader of the Opposition, in moving this motion, presented a grim story, chapter and verse, of deceit and deception by the Prime Minister, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) from the date of my question, 13 th May 1966, 17 months ago, till Friday, 27th October when, in another place, Senator McKellar said that the information could not be supplied. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gorton), on the same day, put his hand under the table and made a liar out of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). I interrupt that portion of my speech to refer to the Senate Hansard of 25th October 1967. On the question of information relating to VIP flights Senator McKellar said that no detailed records had been kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight. But within hours - almost within minutes - the Leader of the Government in the Senate tabled the information.
Someone was lying to the Parliament at that time. Some Minister was misleading the Parliament. If not, then a departmental officer was either incompetent or was misleading the Parliament for some reason or other. The responsibility rests somewhere. We are not to know the departmental official so we put the blame where it belongs - on the men who draw the salary for this responsibility, the Prime Minister and the Ministers under him. lt is apparent that the information was always available. The Prime Minister and his colleagues must take the responsibility for saying it was not.
Today the Prime Minister quoted from a log book from which he could have answered the original question that I asked 13 months ago. But on that occasion he told this House, on advice or otherwise, that the information was not available. Do not tell me h is possible to gloss this over. Is not this misleading the Parliament? Is it not giving false information in a democracy? Someone must be responsible. The only reason that we are discussing this matter today and the only reason that Government members have decided that if they do not all hang together they will hang separately is because in another place Ministers have been dragged to the dock to answer the charge of not giving the truth to the Parliament of this country.
I say that for once the other place has in a way justified its existence. It has let the people see not the shortcomings of this Government but the lengths to which it is prepared to go to keep from the light of day and public gaze information that may justly be used against it politically. Only in a desperate move at the last minute to try to save a few Senate seats did the Government respond to the resolution of the Senate and give some of the information sought. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Air have misled the Parliament. That is quite definite. They have given evasive, false and misleading information to this House and to another place. As late as last Friday, Senator McKellar said that the information was not available.
The Prime Minister endeavoured to gloss this matter over as a minor thing in the life of a government and something of no significance compared with issues such as the Vietnam war, defence generally, development, and other important questions. He said that this was the kind of motion that he would not expect from a responsible Opposition. What does this resolution imply? It questions the integrity and veracity of Ministers of the Government. The very basis of our parliamentary system depends on the honesty and integrity of the men chosen to be the Queen’s Ministers and the charge we level against certain Ministers of this Government is that they have been dishonest to this Parliament and the nation. Let us take the charge a step further. If the word of the Prime Minister and bis Ministers cannot be accepted by the Parliament then the business of the Parliament just cannot be conducted. If untrue statements are made on minor issues, how can we be sure that statements on major issues will bear any resemblance to the truth? How can we take the word of Ministers on Vietnam, defence, social services, development and the state of the economy if they cannot be trusted on issues which some consider to be minor?
A serious charge remains unanswered by the Prime Minister. He rambled on for 45 minutes apologising for using the VIP aircraft. We do not question his right to use VIP aircraft. There is no reason at all why false answers should be given by him or by any Minister in respect to the use of these aircraft. Let this House quite clearly understand that it is not a question of who uses the aircraft, although this aspect has come into it; it is a question of whether information has been withheld from this Parliament deliberately by Ministers of the Crown. In this respect I am reminded of an article by Herbert Morrison, who was later to become Lord Morrison, in a book entiled ‘Government and Parliament’. At page 324 he said:
The House of Commons is generous to a Minister who has told the truth, admitted a mistake and apologised but it will come down hard on a Minister who takes the line that he will defend himself and his Department whether they are right or wrong or who shuffles about evasively rather than admit that a blunder or an innocent mistake has been made.
But we find that this Government today is not apologising for its blunders. It is not saying that a genuine mistake was made when it said that it could not produce information which is now seen to be freely available from the records of the Department of Air.
I come now to the question that I asked on 13th May 1966. Certain motives have been attributed to me in regard to this question. I do not blame the Prime Minister for putting forward that point of view because, after all, he did not have much of a defence for himself, so he had to throw in a few false issues. I sought the information because I was personally interested and because I thought the facts should be known in the public interest. I believed that I was entitled to know just what was being done with these aircraft, who was using them and what they were costing. One of my questions was:
In answer to that the Prime Minister said:
That was a downright lie in any man’s language because the information was available at that time from the book which the Prime Minister brandished today. Who is responsible for keeping that book? We are told that the Minister for Air is not responsible; the Prime Minister is not supposed to be responsible and the Treasurer is noi supposed to be responsible. But someone must be responsible for compiling that kind of information. The Minister for Air and the Prime Minister must bear the full responsibility for what has happened. I can understand why the Government does not want to load the blame entirely on to the Minister for Air because if he is asked for his resignation the Prime Minister will have to resign too, as having been responsible for the Minister’s selection and appointment. That is why the Government is now covering up.
Let us assume that, as the Prime Minister has suggested, I asked my original question to embarrass, say, the then Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party - I do not concede that for one moment. Would that mean that the Government was entitled to lie in answering the question? What standard of integrity! In any event, to suggest that the Government would try to protect a Labor Party Leader from a question by a member of his own Party is funnier than anything that Laurel and Hardy ever did in their films.
The Prime Minister referred to the constitutional position. There again he was right off the beam. He said that the Senate had no right to investigate this matter. Qf course the Senate has a right to investigate this matter. The American case he cited was an isolated case involving security. It was not a precedent; it was a very rare case and it has no relationship to constitutional procedure. But let us again look at the right honourable gentleman’s reasoning. He said that this matter should never have been raised in the Senate. Let us assume that it should not have been ra;.eL birt ‘=»-.: the Senate jumped over the traces. Then apparently in his view the Senate was entitled to an incorrect answer and so it was given one. What a scandalous attitude for the Prime Minister to take. The right honourable gentleman said that Senator Gair had asked a question to embarrass the Labor Party. I suppose he did. But it is very reassuring to know thai the Liberal Prime Minister thinks so much of the Labor Party that he is prepared to lie to defend it. We did not realise the comrades that we had on the other side of the Parliament. We did not know they existed. For the Prime Minister to admit that it is worth lying to a senator, lying in this House-
– I rise to order. The honourable gentleman knows full well that the Prime Minister made no such admission. It is a complete misuse of the forms of the House not only to make, the allegation but also to make the allegation that it was admitted. It was denied. The whole purpose of the debate is the denial. The whole tenor of the debate is to disprove that there was any misrepresentation.
– Speaking to the point of order, I submit that there is no point-
– Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat. I have not yet given a ruling on the point raised by the Leader of the House. The debate this afternoon is the result of a motion moved by the Opposition. Certain, comments have been made in the course of the debate which would not have been allowed under normal circumstances. Whether they were wisely made is another matter. In thi; circumstances, having regard to the charge that has been made, I rule that there is no substance in the point raised by the Leader of the House.
– 1 thank you. Sir, for your wisdom and your fair and impartial ruling. I reiterate that the Prime Minister told us that these questions were asked in order to embarrass the Labor Party and so he was entitled to give false information in his answers. That statement must be answered by the Government in answering our charge. It is of no use the Prime Minister saying he could not answer my question asked in 1966 because today he produced the book containing all the information that I sought. It is this kind of reasoning on the part of the Prime Minister which lends weight to our charges.
Did anybody ever hear anything more fantastic than the Treasurer today trying to defend another Minister as if he himself did not have enough on his plate. He above all others is guilty of misleading the Parliament and deserves to be censured in the manner we have suggested. He has used these VIP aircraft as a taxi service between Canberra and Sydney. On fifty-four occasions he has used VIP aircraft. Evasively and deliberately he has misled the Parliament as to the identity of those who accompanied him on the flights. He told us that when travelling he wanted to discuss with high Treasury officials matters relating to his Department. A fairly accurate check has been made of the times he travelled. On four occasions of the fifty-four he was accompanied by Treasury officials. He said that on thirty-four occasions he was accompanied by a senior officer of the Treasury’s commerce section. In this regard he is misleading the House unless he was referring to a Mr Mike Cranswick, who is an officer of the Treasury but who is the Treasurer’s private secretary, with whom the Treasurer may talk at any time in the Parliament. The Treasurer has misled the Parliament in saying that high Treasury officials accompanied him in the VIP aircraft. Is it any wonder there has been a clamour, not only from Opposition members, for the Government to answer the charge which we level against it in the motion so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition? In its editorial today the ‘Age’ states:
This month, under heavy pressure from senators, including rebels from its own ranks, the Government has suddenly found answers to questions asked 17 months ago - answers that the Prime Minister said were not available or could not be given.
The Prime Minister has said this, notwithstanding what the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) may say. The newspapers and others who are not on the side of the Labor Opposition in any issue are aware of the challenge to our democracy and our parliamentary system in the lack of integrity shown in the past 17 months by Ministers of the Crown. The editorial in the ‘Age’ continues:
It is hardly surprising that senior members of the Government now face, and are preparing to reply to, Labor accusations that they lied and misled Parliament. On the most charitable interpretation of what has happened, the Government has performed the impossible, or what it thought was impossible. The course of events that preceded and surrounded this performance has been as fascinating to the public as it has been embarrassing to the Government.
That is an indictment from a newspaper with a high reputation. Leading articles in several newspapers have questioned the integrity of Ministers because of the information they have kept from the Parliament in the last 17 months. Some of this Government’s sins are listed in today’s issue of the ‘Daily Mirror’. The report on this matter reads:
The information, claiming that records of VIP passengers were not kept, went from the department to its representative in the Senate, Senator McKellar.
This indicated that the department was responsible for the inaccuracies given to Parliament.
Who is responsible if the Department is inaccurate? Is not the Minister responsible and is not the Prime Minister responsible for the Minister and to this Parliament? The report continues:
If the department was blameless, the Government would be faced with the situation of having four Ministers, including Mr Holt, on trial for having deceived the Parliament.
What a shocking thing it is that we have to move a motion such as this, questioning the integrity of the Prime Minister and alleging that he deceived Parliament. But there is justification for our action, as is seen from the facts recorded in page after page of Hansard. The report in the ‘Daily Mirror’ continues:
The statements which are said to have been misleading are: A claim by Mr Holt that no VIP aircraft had been ordered in the lifetime of his Government. Subsequent records show this to be untrue.
Another claim by Mr Holt that members of his family had travelled on VIP aircraft unaccompanied by him only once. The record show otherwise.
A statement by Mr Howson - the key statement in the whole issue - that detailed records of VIP passengers were not kept. Records have since been produced going back IS months.
A statement in the Senate last week by Senator McKellar, on behalf of the Air Department, repeating Mr Howson’s claim.
A statement in the Senate last week by the Government Leader, Senator Gorton, saying that only a great deal of dissection could determine what pasengers were on the flights. Senator Gorton later produced the passenger manifests which made it obvious that no dissection was necessary.
By heaven, no jury in the country would fail to convict any government on evidence produced from those records of the Parliament and from statements made by Ministers. In repeating this evidence I support the motion because I believe in parliamentary integrity and in this institution and ali that it stands for. The Government must answer for the information that it gave to the Parliament. We do not want to hear from the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) the type of speech which we heard today from other Government supporters. We do not want to hear who was on the aircraft and who was not. Let the Minister get down to the terms of the motion. Was the information given to the House true or false? If it was false, who gave it? Is any action to be taken by the Prime Minister firstly against himself and secondly against bis Ministers for the lack of integrity shown on the isues before this Parliament? I support the motion. I hope that it will be carried by the Parliament. Never in more than 24 years in this Parliament have I known such misleading and inaccurate information to be given by Ministers. As for the Senate, it is good to have it as a watch dog on this issue. It is good that the Senate has brought to the light of day the shortcomings of the Government.
– The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has invited me not to worry about who was on the aircraft we are discussing this afternoon but to get down to the matters germane to the motion. I am quite capable of dealing with the subject and I propose to traverse some matters that have not been touched upon in great depth this afternoon because I am sure that the House will have been satisfied by the explanations given by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon).
There will not be found on this side of the House any shortage of people with a deep and abiding appreciation of the responsibility of members and Ministers to this parliamentary institution or to its members. Speaker after speaker from the Oppo sition this afternoon has disclosed the real purpose of this motion. It is not to censure the Government for other than political purposes. The honourable member for Grayndler thanked the Senate for bringing this matter to light. The more often it can mention the Senate in the context of a debate of this kind the happier the Opposition will be, because there soon will be a Senate election. If there is a little political mileage in a question of this kind, of course the Labor Party will be anxious to extract it. This is a perfectly legitimate political ploy. We on this side of the House know what it is about and I do not imagine that honourable members opposite are pulling the wool over the eyes of very many electors in this country. A Labor Party which aspires to office and wants to play its politics in this low key and sees in this kind of debate an avenue or a platform on which it might lever itself into office might be expected to use the forms of the House to bring forward a completely exaggerated motion of this kind at this time.
Speaker after speaker on the Labor side has talked about our running a diversionary move and our talking about things other than the text of the motion. But the whole exercise is a diversionary one designed to take the mind of the people away from the major issues in a community about which we will be in the heat of discussion in the next few weeks. I seem to recall that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said that he would be quite happy to debate this issue all over the country. I bet he would, if it would save him debating the real issues of substance which rest before the electors of the community at this time. The Prime Minister exposed the nice little matter of timing in which this matter was brought foward in the Senate. It was brought forward on a Friday so that the newspapers, leaning just a little towards the Opposition, would be able to give it Press publicity without answer for 2 or 3 days. There is a Press which is in part subservient to the Opposition on this matter. The honourable member for Cunningham referred to some articles which had been published in the Sun Herald*.
The honourable member for Grayndler had a whole sheaf of texts taken from various newspapers in the last week or two.
I remember that on Friday last there was an important national function at which we opened a new military barracks at Holsworthy. My name is in the book of the famous because I ordered a VIP aircraft. It took to Sydney the heads of our military services, there to participate in a great military function. I asked that the aircraft should be put into Bankstown because that is 5 minutes away from Holsworthy. Yet on the back page of the same Sun Herald,’ quoted with joy and pleasure by my friends opposite, was a scurrilous paragraph which was not very big but which disclosed the attitude of the sometimes subservient Press. I cannot quote the paragraph verbatim, but it hinted that we put the aircraft into Bankstown hoping to avoid public attention. As though we could sneak an aircraft into an airport, unload all the people into Government cars and take them off for a function like the opening of Holsworthy without attracting attention. That is about as ridiculous, as pointed and as blatantly dishonest as the kind of Opposition argument that has been put in this House this afternoon.
It is quite an interesting insight into the level of values of members of the Opposition that, in the broad range of all the Government’s responsibilities in this country which have brought forth no public concern but only public acclaim, they would choose an issue such as this on which to move what is certainly a tremendously serious motion in a democratic Parliament. The issue is whether information was given in error. In the exaggerated offerings of my friends opposite, this has been referred to all the afternoon as lies. T venture to suggest that if every bit of information which comes into Parliament from the Opposition and which is incorrect is to be branded as lies, misleading and misrepresentation, the public would have a fine opinion of those who sit on the opposite side of this Parliament. The fact is that what we are testing at the present moment is not whether information was given in error because clearly information has been given in error. What we are measuring really is the intent, whether the Minister or the Department which gave the information intended to mislead the Parliament. I shall come to that in a moment. In comparison with the great issues facing this country, the matter we are debating today is not an issue on which to challenge whether or not this Government retains the confidence of the Australian people.
As I mentioned a moment ago, it is quite clear that information has been given in error, but it was in good faith, as I understand it. We will not clear this matter until the Minister whose responsibility it is to run the Department of Air is available to give us information and perhaps to look into the circumstances surrounding the situation. Perhaps it will disclose only a weakness in that administration. Is this the kind of intent that comes out as misleading, as misrepresentation or any other of the list of crimes which have been put down by the Opposition this afternoon? It was very interesting to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), his great heart full of concern and charity, say that any Minister may be the victim of incorrect advice from public servants. I am not saying that there was incorrect advice from public servants. I am not here to criticise the Public Service; I am here looking for the facts. In due course, as the Prime Minister has said, when the responsible Minister is available the matter will be looked at and information will be given to the general public.
How could these statements have been made over the past 12 months or so in anything other than good faith? Let us consider the situation. The moment that the records were known to be available - I do not know why they were not available earlier - they were put down immediately in the House, despite the fact that they indicated that a mistake had been made previously. We could not do better than that. One would have to take a long, hard look at a situation of this kind before one would be able to find any good reason why any department, any minister or any government would seek to mislead the Parliament or the public on an issue of this kind. After all, it concerns the use of VIP aircraft which are provided for the proper conduct of this country’s affairs. They are in the hands of responsible Ministers of the Government who have been elected by the people, in most cases with overwhelming majorities, and appointed by a Prime Minister who has, through his whole parliamentary career, carried the undoubted confidence of the Australian electors, and no more so than in the results of the election of 12 months ago.
Our colleagues have explained ad nauseum in this House in recent times the use of VIP aircraft - one honourable member opposite has even counted up the hours over which the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Prime Minister have explained their use - and there has been no real complaint from the public on this issue. There will be no public condemnation on this issue. But there is one thing that I do know. I am sure that governments all round the world and people in other parts of the world will be utterly astounded that in this young country of ours, which is growing at an enormous rate and putting great responsibilities on the Parliament, of which the Opposition is an important part, and certainly putting great loads of responsibility on the Government, the Parliament would seek to submit its responsible Minister to this kind of inquisition on a petty matter such as that which has occupied the time of the House in the last week of a session when there is an enormous agenda still before the Parliament and great events still to follow that. I know also that governments all round the world will be tremendously envious that in this fortunate country this is the biggest issue which can be found to excite the political public.
I have had some experience of overseas governments and overseas commercial organisations in the use of aircraft. No matter where I have gone around the world, whether I have been dealing with governments or with commercial organisations, there has never been any difficulty about putting a modern aircraft at my disposal so that I could carry on with comfort and with speed the kind of business I had come to pursue. In all these things we are being forced on by technological developments on the one hand and by the sheer weight of effort which must be carried out by administrators in all fields nowadays, government and business. We are forced to provide this modern means for conducting the nation’s business.
One of the big bugbears in parliamentary life, as I have learned, is the time taken in travelling and the time wasted at airports. But I am rather unfortunate. I am one of the Ministers who is carrying decentralisation into effect. I represent a rural electorate. It is one to which the means of transport are not good, and this is no fault of the electorate. My friends can be home in Adelaide or Brisbane long before I get out of Sydney. I have learnt to do my work sitting in airports, travelling on trains and in aeroplanes and so on. But inevitably it must be an inferior kind of work and the inferiority must be compensated by long hours of hard work at times when other people are enjoying recreation. I am not complaining about this because I have my remedy. When 1 get tired enough of it, I know exactly what to do.
But I am afraid we underestimate the commitments that fall to Ministers in these days. There is not a Minister of this Government or of any other government whose day is not completely fragmented. By the time he gets to his place of work, meets the officers of his department, attends to departmental affairs, attends to the affairs of Cabinet and the committees of Cabinet, looks after his electors and his electorate matters and then takes care of the commitments that, by virtue of his participation in public life, fall to him, his day is not only fragmented but becomes long and tiresome. My colleague, the Treasurer, has pointed out how important it is that, on his trips between here and Sydney, his home port and the place where much of the business of his department is concentrated, he seizes the opportunity to discuss the effect of the business-
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I ask you whether the Minister for Defence, who is speaking about the justification for using VIP aircraft, is in order in dwelling on this subject rather than on the matter before the House, which is whether the Government has told untruths in supplying certain information. The matter before the House-
-Order! What is the point of order?
– The matter before the House is not whether Ministers are entitled to use VIP aircraft but whether certain Ministers told untruths about the use of the aircraft.
-Order! There is no substance in the poin t of order.
Mi FAIRHALL - Mr Speaker, I thank you for your forbearance and wisdom. I am merely giving the facts about the responsibilities that fall to Ministers; they should be understood. My colleague, the Treasurer, has been accused of carrying various people in his aircraft, because they are not listed on manifests and so on. I have been a passenger with the Treasurer on several flights to Sydney. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the business of the Parliament and the Government with him. Every Minister here, to the best of my knowledge, is as busy as he can possibly bc. Work fills all the time there is and very frequently we wait for days for the opportunity to settle down for 5 minutes with a ministerial colleague with whose department we have some business before we can get the matter settled. I can well understand that the Treasurer would want to use these periods of movement to settle down and, without the presence of other people, discuss most important business of Cabinet.
The honourable member for Cunningham said that the Prime Minister declared that he was here by divine right. He is not here by divine right, but he has been here for a long time by the second most powerful right there is in a democratic community and that is by the election of the people. I have never known of an instance when the Prime Minister has had any occasion deliberately to mislead the people in this community and there is not the slightest evidence that he has in fact misled the Australian people on any occasion. Obviously, it would not matter how much explanation was offered by my ministerial colleagues in answer to the quite exaggerated accusations that have been made in this chamber all afternoon. The Opposition would forget any explanations and continue to bang away on the same drum, making the same exaggerated accusations and not worrying that they had been properly answered. In this kind of diversion they mislead the public in the way that they accuse the Government of misleading the public. That is the object of their entire political exercise on this occasion.
We do not seek to divert public opinion from a consideration of the use of VIP aircraft. I have dealt with the use of these aircraft and I have given the reasons for it. I have shown why use of the aircraft is so valuable and I have shown that we cannot be behind the rest of the world in the use of these modern facilities. I have accepted the fact, which is perfectly plain and needs no explanation, that by mischance, by misadventure, wrong information has been given to the people and to the Parliament. The moment that the information was found to be in error it was corrected. I come back to the point that ought to be accepted in the House and I know will be accepted in the community. The real question is intent. No government and no Minister would be fool enough to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the people about the use of such a public facility as aeroplanes. After all, the aircraft must fly into public aerodromes. People must get out of them and generally get into Government motor cars. All over the country, people have these aircraft, their operations and those who travel in them under constant observation. For what reason would a government want to mislead the people about the use of the VIP aircraft by the people npt only best fitted to use them but the most responsible people in the community, having upon their shoulders the most enormous work load?
While ever VIP aircraft can be used to further the business of this nation and while ever the Ministers who use them are responsible people - certainly they are; there is no evidence to the contrary - I am perfectly certain the public will accept the explanations that have been given. I am certain the public will accept the use of VIP aircraft and will reject, as this House most certainly will, a motion of no confidence that is put forward for purely political purposes.
– -The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) dealt largely with the use of VIP aircraft. May I state again, on behalf of the Opposition, as many honourable members on this side of the House have clearly stated already, that this is not a question of the use of the VIP aircraft by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) or the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen). We have said on many occasions that the use of VIP aircraft by these people is completely justified. Noone has criticised the Government for this.
But the Minister for Defence devoted most of his speech to a criticism of the attitude of the Opposition on this aspect. We have said quite clearly that we believe the use of VIP aircraft by the people I have mentioned can be justified. But we believe that there has been some misuse of these aircraft and some abuse of the privilege. Noone would deny this. Abuses of this privilege have been mentioned not only by members of the Opposition but also by most of the daily newspapers.
As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said earlier in this debate, no-one, not even the Prime Minister or the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), can justify the use of VIP aircraft by the Federal Treasurer for flights between Canberra and Sydney. No-one will accept the explanation that he uses the VIP aircraft over this short distance merely because it is necessary for him to be accompanied by officials of his department. I do not believe that many honourable members on the Government side really accept this explanation either. There are numerous commercial flights from Canberra to Sydney and from Sydney to Canberra. Surely it ought not to be necessary for the Treasurer to use VIP aircraft so frequently. Surely the Minister for Defence is not prepared to justify this kind of misuse of VIP aircraft. We appreciate that their use is necessary, but there is the question of abuse. I do not think that the Minister for Defence would be prepared to justify every trip that has been made by a Minister in a VIP aircraft in the last 18 months.
The Minister for Defence describes this as a very petty issue. What is the real issue? It is not a question of whether wc believe that VIP aircraft ought to be used. We accept the proposition that they should be used. The real issue is whether this Parliament and the nation have been misled by the Prime Minister, by the Minister for Air and by other responsible Government officials who were asked to provide information to the Parliament. If the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) or the Prime Minister had been prepared to answer questions that were directed to the Government more than 17 months ago in the Parliament, this issue need not have arisen. Earlier this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Leader of the
Democratic Labor Party in another place, Senator Gair, had asked a question on this matter and was told that the information was not available. The plain fact is that the information was available because almost 17 months later the Prime Minister was able to table in this chamber all the information that was asked for on that occasion by the senator. What did the Minister for Defence have to say about this? He said it was a question of misadventure. He may be able to dismiss it in that way, but the explanation is not likely to satisfy honourable members on this side of the chamber and it most certainly will not satisfy those people outside this Parliament who believe that the Government has responsibility in these matters. The Minister for Defence knows that this is the position.
The Parliament has been deliberately misled not only by a very senior member of this House but by a Minister who must accept responsibility for this Department. It is not sufficient for the Minister for Defence to say that this is a question of misadventure and that the Government will await the return of the Minister for Air from an overseas trip before it will be in a position to make a further statement on this question. Surely the Minister for Defence does not want honourable members on this side to believe that the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence himself, or some other Minister has not been in touch already with the Minister for Air. I would nol accept such a proposition. Obviously the Government already has clearly represented the facts to the Minister for Air. It would be very difficult for the Minister for Air to return to Australia and explain to the Parliament why he said that information on VIP aircraft flights in Australia was not available last year when it has now been made available to the Parliament by the Prime Minister. The information was available all the time.
We believe that the Government deserves censure. Whether the Minister for Defence is prepared to describe this as a petty matter or not is a question for him to determine, but the issue is one of misrepresentation and if the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air are in the position of having given false information to the Parliament then they must be prepared to stand up and accept the consequences. No Minister who has spoken this afternoon has dealt with this question at all. We have heard statements from the Prime Minister and from other senior Ministers on the use of VIP aircraft, but this is not the issue at all. The question that the Opposition wants decided and answered by the Government - and the question that the people are asking - is why the Government said that it was not in a position to make this information available. All of the information sought by members of the Senate and by honourable members in this chamber as well has been available for more than 17 months. We believe that here the Government has a case to answer.
The Minister for Defence said that the Opposition was able to find only this issue on which to raise a motion of censure against the Government. There are a number of such issues, and we are quite prepared to accept the Minister’s challenge on any of these questions at the proper time. An important issue that the people would want determined immediately by a responsible Opposition is that of false information being given to the Parliament and to the people. False information has been given to the nation and to the Parliament and not one Minister has been prepared to stand up and justify the attitude of the Prime Minister or the Minister for Air on this question. Earlier this afternoon I listened with much interest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who also endeavoured to justify the use of VIP aircraft. I have already dealt with the attitude of the Opposition on this aspect. The Minister for Civil Aviation might have taken the opportunity to bring the question of the use of VIP aircraft in Australia into proper perspective. He might have taken the opportunity to inform the House about the number of occasions that he himself has used the seventeen aircraft available to the Department of Civil Aviation. But no mention of this matter was made by the Minister.
The Opposition has moved this motion because it is perturbed at the lack of credibility which the Government has revealed in its disgraceful handling of the whole VIP episode. We have always made it plain that moderate and reasonable use of VIP aircraft is, as the Prime Minister has said, an adjunct of modern government. Criticism always has been directed at excesses and at what we regard as the building of a fleet which is too elaborate for Australian needs.
However, this is not a matter for debate this afternoon. The Leader of the Opposition dealt most effectively with this question in replying to a statement made by the Prime Minister quite recently. He pointed out that we would never be in a position to justify expenditure on BACIII aircraft. This was a proposition that the Opposition put very carefully to the Government on that occasion. This was the essence of the reply by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister’s statement last week.
But it is not the use of VIP planes that the Opposition seeks to criticise today. We are concerned with the credibility of the Holt-McEwen Government. We maintain that the whole handling of this episode shows the Government in a wretched light. The Prime Minister stands condemned by his own words on this issue. Throughout the whole of this debate he has stressed that only he and the Minister for Air have responsibility in this matter. The sorry truth is that it was not until the Government was cornered that it cynically tabled in another place documents which it had repeatedly claimed did not exist. I believe it would be as well to point out that the Minister for Defence, when he was replying on behalf of the Government a few moments ago, suggested that this information could have been made available. But it was not until it was known that action was contemplated in another place to bring a senior departmental officer to the Bar of the Senate that the Government decided to make the information available.
On 24th October during question time, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) directed a question on VIP aircraft to the Prime Minister. He asked whether the Royal Australian Air Force maintained an air movement authorisation register detailing crew, passengers, flying hours, departure and destination as well as intermediate stopping points for all aircraft in the Squadron. He asked whether details of dates and times of use of aircraft as well as a considerable volume of other information were also recorded. The right honourable gentleman did not answer the question. He said he would make a statement after question time which would cover substantially the “ information sought by the honourable member for Oxley. The right honourable gentleman subsequently tabled the document headed ‘List of Accepted VIP Tasks Period January 1, 1967 to March 8, 1967’. It became apparent on examination that this document did not even remotely give the information sought by the honourable member for Oxley and sought repeatedly by Opposition members in both Houses of this Parliament.
It was not until it became apparent to the Government that the Opposition would persist in its efforts to obtain the fullest account of aircraft usage that the Government capitulated. In the space of 2 days the Government was able miraculously to accumulate records which it had claimed for 17 months did not exist. If this cynical tactic was designed to stifle debate on this issue, it failed utterly. My colleague, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, last Friday made a measured but nonetheless devastating attack on the credibility of this Government. Today in this House the Opposition has made a similar attack on the Government. We assert that the Government has shown an arrogant contempt for the processes of this Parliament. If the Government cannot be trusted to reveal the truth about what is essentially, in the words of the Minister for Defence, only a trivial matter, how can it be trusted on great matters of state? This is the essence of the censure motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition. We challenge the Government’s veracity on these questions.
Whether the Government has sought to deceive the Parliament and the public on whether certain service records exist is basically not important. However, can it be stated with any certainty that the Government is not deceiving the people on more cogent issues? If the Government has failed to deal plainly on this matter, how can its assurances be accepted in any other areas of policy. This is the important consideration for determination by this Parliament when it has the opportunity of voting on this censure motion. It has been demonstrated quite forcibly and clearly that the Government has deceived the Parliament and the people. If it is prepared to deceive the Parliament and the people on this issue, quite plainly one should ask the question: Would it be prepared to deceive the Parliament and the people on other important issues? Not one Minister from the Government side has given an assurance that this is not the position. The Minister for Defence probably got closest to the truth on this question when he said that he felt it was a question of misadventure. But this is not good enough for honourable members on this side of the House. Here is a clear case where the Opposition in this House and in another place have clearly been given false information by senior Ministers of the Government. In these circumstances we believe that a censure motion is fully justified.
On 4th October in this House in a statement on Air Force VIP flights, the Prime Minister said:
If I felt that the Minister for Air was not behaving responsibly in relation to the services 1 could take action.
Does the Prime Minister recall this statement? Does he now consider that he should take the action indicated against the Minister for Air? Does he claim that the Minister for Air is at fault for not supplying him with accurate information? Does he claim that certain members of the Department of Air have been negligent? These are questions the Prime Minister must answer. The right honourable gentleman went on to say:
If the public thought that I was not behaving responsibly in the role I play in relation to the service, 1 have no doubt that it would take action against me.
The Opposition asserts today on behalf of the Australian public that the Prime Minister has not behaved responsibly in the way outlined in his own words. He went on to refer to what he termed a mythology that has developed around the subject. He neglected to say that much of this so-called mythology is of his own making. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for Air had taken the opportunity early last year, when this question was first raised, to supply information that was then available to them, the question of VIP aircraft, and certainly this censure motion moved this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition, would not have been necessary. No member on the Government side - and nearly all the senior Ministers have spoken in the debate this afternoon - has been able to answer the charges made earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. The answers given this afternoon will not satisfy the Opposition. They certainly will not satisfy the people of this country who believe that the Government is guilty of deception on matters raised by members in the Parliament on the question of VIP aircraft. For this reason I join with my colleagues in supporting this motion of censure.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has merely asserted and re-asserted a series of allegations. He has not proved anything. A motion of censure against the Government is one of the serious occasions that the Parliament can be confronted with. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) this is based upon questions of the veracity and credibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and certain Ministers of the Government. On the issue of credibility I say that this debate makes one thing crystal clear; it is beyond doubt that this is not a debate upon the credibility of the Prime Minister who, after 32 or 33 years in this place - most of those years as a Minister - has never before been charged with telling anything other than the truth to the best of his knowledge. The debate today is part of the Labor Party’s Senate campaign. Let us be perfectly clear what this debate is all about. It is the initiation of part of Labor’s Senate campaign. The debate is not concerned with policy. It is a debate designed and contrived for one purpose only; to enable Labor to avoid discussing policy. That is the real reason. This tactic, motive or objective is being employed by the Labor Party to avoid a discussion in this Parliament of the critical issues of security and the wellbeing of this country. The Opposition has switched across to something which has a plausible public interest and a measure of substance in it merely to avoid talking about serious things. When this is appreciated, we get this debate and the attitude of the Labor Party into the correct perspective.
When the Prime Minister the other day announced that additional forces were to go to Vietnam the Leader of the Opposition sat silent. Notwithstanding all of his denunciations, allegations and posturing and that of the whole party, when he sat silent it was clear that honourable members opposite were not going to face the issue which they faced 12 months ago to their utter downfall. Here was a major issue which the Opposition found it prudent not to debate publicly. The Leader of the Opposition remained silent and then with a bit of abracadabra produced from up his sleeve the issue for another debate on a different matter entirely. And the Opposition’s tactics have succeeded to this point: Having ducked an issue of real Australian policy last week in the Parliament, the Government has now confronted the Opposition with a discussion of that very point of policy. This was initiated by a statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck), and the debate on this major policy issue is scheduled for tonight. What has the present debate achieved? It has brought about a situation in which, if the business of the country is to proceed, the debate scheduled for tonight will have to be deferred until Thursday.
Labor has succeeded to this extent: it has ducked the real issue and has succeeded with a trick in postponing a debate in which the country wants to hear Labor spokesmen giving their views. The Opposition has ducked this debate until next Thursday when the House is due to adjourn, and with a little bit more skill or a little bit more luck the Opposition may not have to debate it even on Thursday, and honourable members opposite may then go away and think they can live happily ever after. But it will not work out that way. This debate will take place in the Parliament; it will take place on the hustings in the election campaign. The members of the Labor Party will have to stand up and be counted on the issue. They will have to show where they stand on this real matter of policy rather than on the smokescreen that they are attempting to set up now.
This debate is not on an issue that should be viewed in isolation. It is part of a sustained campaign. It was initiated some considerable time ago, perhaps as much as 17 months ago, when questions were first asked. Let us remember the questions that were asked then and those that have been asked since. They made it quite clear that the issue as Labor saw it at that time was whether or not it was extravagant for a government to have a VIP flight, and whether or not the flight was being conducted at an extravagant cost. That was the critical question. Some public attention was turned upon the VIP flight and the cost and the use of it, and every newspaper that I read came out in support of the existence of a VIP flight. Even the Leader of the Opposition and others of the Labor Party have been impelled to squirm away from the original criticism and to say in this Parliament that they support the existence of a VIP flight. They could not say otherwise because they use it.
That original issue soon died, although it looked for a time like a jolly good runner. It had all the elements of the classic issue of politicians extravagantly wasting public money. Nothing can ever command headlines as readily as an issue of that kind. I am old enough to remember a major issue in an Australian general election which turned on whether the spending of £25 to build a dog kennel for the Prime Minister of the day was not so gross an extravagance that the Government ought to be thrown out. The Opposition of the day squeezed every bit of politics out of that issue that it could, and I am bound to say that practically every newspaper in Australia also squeezed out of it every bit of politics that it could. This issue is in the same field. A bigger dog kennel is involved but it is the same political trick, nothing else, and it must be recognised as such. It is a good gimmick. It is more than a good gimmick, it is a good smokescreen. Today’s debate, taking up the whole of the time of the Commonwealth Parliament throughout the afternoon, has proved that it is a very successful smokescreen. This has caused already a deferment of the debate on the main issue with which all Australians are concerned. This issue concerning the VIP fleet has been blown up out of all importance.
I say that it is the duty of the Parliament, the Government and the Opposition, and the duty of the three political parties in this Parliament to face up to the real issues of the security and well being of the Australian community, and of our security and our relationship with our allies. The present burning issue at the moment is whether it is right that we should be in Vietnam with our American allies or whether we should, as the Australian Labor Party proposed at the last election for the House of Representatives, withdraw our troops from their association with Americans in the front line and break the American alliance. This is the only alliance that, in my view and in the view of any thinking Australian, any Australian who will be honest in his statement of his attitude, could save us if we were ever again in desperate straits under attack. This is the real issue. It was a loser 12 months ago. The Labor Party would be glad to get away from it.
But what has happened? The Adelaide Conference of the ALP has really re-affirmed that policy. Today the Australian Labor Party is in a state of torment. I do not believe for one moment that all the members of the Labor Party believe that its policy is right. But it is a party that imposes ruthless discipline on its members. There is no future in that Party for anyone who says that he does not agree with that particular attitude to a major issue of policy. So we find in the ranks opposite those who believe that it would be right to take such action as would break the American alliance. There is only one world group that is absolutely clear where it stands on that point. That is the Communist Party. This would be meat and drink to the Communist Party if Australia should break the American and Australian alliance. There are those within the ranks of the Australian Labor Party who would like to see this happen. There are good Australians within the ranks of the ALP who know that if this happened it would be disastrous.
Here is the condition of mental torment in which this once great political party stands today, not able to face up to the issues and to argue genuinely and validly because the Party believes in the issue. But the Australian Labor Party is squirming, turning and twisting to find by some political gimmick something by which it can dodge the issue and thinks it can delude the Australian people into believing that the use of VIP aircraft is the major issue of the day. Let those who think and listen realise that this motion to censure the Government and the Prime Minister is merely a political gimmick and a smoke screen to avoid a discussion on major foreign policy. So, I say that up to this point the trick has succeeded. But it will wear thin. This Government will see that there is a debate in this Parliament on the issue of foreign policy. This Government will see that the election will not run through without the Labor Party in its official stand having to stand up and be counted and having to say where it stands on this issue; what its attitude is today on our troops in Vietnam; and what its attitude is today on our foreign policy. It is not the Government’s foreign policy; it should be Australia’s foreign policy, for it is built for the survival of Australia and for no other reason. This small, desirable, lucky country, remote geographically from its friends, and sparsely populated, should know that in an hour of crisis Australia has a great friend who will come to its aid. This should not be just the Government’s policy. It should be Australia’s policy. And the Australian Labor Party will find, when the votes are counted, that it is Australia’s policy. This is what the Labor Party found ] 2 months ago when the votes were counted and it was reduced to such a diminished force as sits in this Parliament today.
I know that outside the Parliament skilful politicians experienced in debate can delude people who have not the time to concentrate their thinking, but in this place they cannot delude people. In this place, the smokescreen is wafted away and the pretences are exposed. This is the place where the Leader of the Opposition should be prepared to stand up and lead a debate on our foreign policy and our attitude to our allies, if he himself believed in Labor’s policy and thought that it was persuasive to the Australian people. I do not think that he himself believes in it. He failed in Adelaide to have the policy changed, and he knows perfectly well that Labor’s present policy is a loser if presented to the Australian people. However, honourable members opposite believe that some allegation that politicians are extravagant and a suggestion that their veracity can be questioned will tickle the ears of listeners and win headlines in the newspapers. Up to that point, this approach has worked. But it has been adopted not altogether with straightness. I am bound to refer to a reference in the Senate by Senator Cant to a member of my own staff. He said: on a flight from Darwin to Gladstone a Miss Burns, whoever she may be, is listed as having flown in a VIP aircraft. I think this person was a typist or stenographer. Miss Burns must be a pretty popular person because on 3rd August 1967 she flew from Canberra to I do not know where; it was impossible for me to decipher the destination of the aircraft.
Miss Byrne, who is the person referred to, is one of my private secretaries and I think she is known to most members of all parties. She sits in the advisers benches during question time on every sitting day. Members of all parties interview her occasionally to get some aid. She is the liaison between me and the Department of Trade and Industry. She and Mr Hamilton, my Press secretary, flew with me to western Queensland on a mission that I had and from there to Rockhampton. I wanted to fly to Gladstone, but there were no night landing facilities there and I had to fly to Rockhampton. I intended to fly down to Gladstone in the VIP plane the next morning for the opening of the alumina works there. The companies associated with the works, which had chartered a number of aircraft to take people to Gladstone for the occasion, asked me not to fly there in my own aircraft because the Gladstone aerodrome would be encumbered with a lot of chartered planes. They asked me would 1 fly from Rockhampton in one of their planes, which I did. That left my aircraft at Rockhampton and helped to prevent the Gladstone aerodrome from becoming too cluttered with planes. My aircraft then flew the two members of my staff whom I have mentioned, not from Darwin to Gladstone, but from Rockhampton to Gladstone, where I rejoined the aircraft and flew back to Canberra in it. That is the story of that occasion.
On another occasion when I. had urgent business, I had a VIP plane go to Mangalore, which is within an hour of my farm by car, to pick me up and bring me to Canberra. I asked Miss Byrne to travel down on the plane and to take some important documents with her so that I would have the advantage of being able to study them on the flight back to Canberra. On that occasion she flew alone in a VIP aircraft. The Opposition’s attitude is pretty poor. The Australian Labor Party can conduct its business without dragging a young woman into the act like this, I am sure. It would have taken only a simple inquiry to find out these facts. I have had to mention them to clear up the situation.
I now return to the main point, Mr Speaker. There has been no evidence at all adduced in this debate to sustain the charge of untruthfulness against the members of the Government. I have been a Minister a long time, as honourable members know. I am experienced enough to say quite often, in answer to a question, or in a letter, ‘I am informed that . . .’, making it perfectly clear that the knowledge is not within my own possession but that I pass on the information given to me in good faith from my Department. I will recurringly say this. I have answered questions in the House on that basis and come back into the House and asked for leave to correct a statement I have made. Honourable members will know this, lt is not impossible in good faith to be given some information from a most reliable department which turns out not to be factually correct, and this has happened to a minimum degree in this respect. The Prime Minister has, so soon as it came to his knowledge, stood up and put it in that perspective, and a party which wanted to get on with the real affairs of the country would accept that and get on with the business. Instead of this, we are treated to a stunt.
– No doubt the Government is in a very desperate position when it is defended by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) who in recent months has made a point of not defending the Government but rather of showing very obviously his discomfort about the disagreement that exists between him and other members of the Government. But no doubt the Government is in a very desperate situation this evening when it has to call upon the Minister for Trade and Industry to complete its defences in this debate in which the Government has been unable to defend itself. The Minister for Trade and Industry, we know very well, is in a desperate position when he can talk for almost 20 minutes without dealing once with the subject at issue. For the whole of the time he was speaking he tried to divert the attention of the House and everyone else from the point of issue. But everyone knows why the Minister for Trade and Industry spoke tonight. He proposes to leave the country very soon after this debate finishes and to take no other part whatever in the Senate election campaign. So if the right honourable gentleman is tight, that this debate has been raised as part of the Senate election campaign, it has given him an opportunity to take part in the campaign, one which he would not otherwise have. He has chosen to leave Australia so that the issues that exist between him and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) will not emerge for the observation of the people of Australia.
This is the policy speech of the Minister for Trade and Industry, delivered in the House before he leaves for overseas, so he wm not have to take any further part in defending the Government to whose defence he has been drawn in at a desperate stage today. He talks about a smokescreen. The Opposition, he thinks, does not want to debate the question of Vietnam. This comes rather as a surprise to me tonight, following as I do the Minister for Trade and Industry. Does the Minister think that I would be slow to want a debate on the question of Vietnam? I say to the right honourable gentleman that there is no reason in the world why that debate should not take place tonight, except one. I challenge the Government to put the debate on this evening, as it planned to do. The reason why the Government does not want the Vietnam debate to take place tonight is this: It knows that if the debate does take place tonight that debate will be submerged by this debate upon VIP aircraft. It wants to move the debate to next Thursday so it will have the opportunity to get into the Press its unsupported allegations about the Opposition in the debate on Vietnam.
The Government very well knows, and the Press knows, that this issue that has been before the House this evening is the more important of these issues this week. This week the House has been concerned, the Senate has been concerned, and the people of Australia have been concerned not with Vietnam but with the use by the Government of VIP aircraft, the lack of accountability by the Government and the strong suggestions that the Government has deliberately been deceiving the House, the Senate and the people about the use of these aircraft. This is the issue. Does the Minister for Trade and Industry consider that this issue has no importance at all and ought not to be debated in this House? Should we allow it to pass without notice? No! The issue before the House now has taken 17 months to mature. I heard the Minister say, speaking for himself, that he has come into the House and said that he has been informed that such and such a thing happened; that he has been informed by his Department and he has discovered later that the information was inaccurate and has come into the House and corrected that. Of course he has - but within the space of a few days. This matter has continued for 17 months. It has taken the Government not a few days hut 17 months to correct this. When did the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Minister for Air (Mr Howson) discover that these records had been kept? When did they discover that? Was it only the other day? Did the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Government expect the House, the Senate and the people of this country to believe that it has taken 17 months for them to discover for the first time that that wealth of records recently tabled in the Senate recently existed? Have they just discovered that in the last few days? It was 17 months ago that the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) raised this question in the House and asked for details. It was 17 months ago that the present Prime Minister - the Treasurer as he then was - answered the question by saying:
Passengers’ names are recorded only so that aircraft may be safely and properly loaded. After a flight is completed the list of names is of no value and is not retained for long. For similar reasons no records are kept of the places to which aircraft in the VIP flight take VIP passengers. The answers to these questions are just not available.
That was 17 months ago. The matter has been raised continuously in the intervening period in the Press and in the House. It has been spoken about often. Always the Ministers answering questions continued to give the impression that there was no information about VIP aircraft. Why was that? It was because the Ministers wanted to hide the use of VIP aircraft and because they had a motive for saying that no records were available. So the pressure continued. In the Senate on 25th October 1967, last Wednesday, 17 months later, Senator McKellar, the Minister representing the Minister for Air, who is responsible for providing answers to such questions as this, said:
No detailed records have been kept of who travelled with an applicant on a particular flight.
This was 17 months after the question had first been raised. It has been raised continuously. It is incompetence on the part of a government if it cannot discover in 17 months that such voluminous records as those that were brought into the Senate last
Wednesday did not exist. If anybody knew that those records existed, the veracity of the Government is in doubt and the Government may well have been deceiving the House and the Senate. Where did they all come from? That is the issue that is in question in this matter; not Vietnam or some other issue that the Government perhaps would like to use as a smokescreen to hide the embarrassment that this situation has created for it.
When was it discovered that these records existed? Why was it only last week, after 17 months, that the Government discovered these records? No explanation is given. Surely it would be relatively easy for the Minister acting for the Minister for Air to contact the Department to see why it was not known that these records existed. There is no explanation of this. The Government, after 17 months, is still hiding information from this House. The Government would have no difficulty at all in ascertaining this information if it wanted to do so. It does not have to wait, surely, for the Minister for Air to return to find a simple answer to a simple question. Why was it that this I cwt of records was kept for 17 months and nothing was said about it? Did the Government and the Department not know that this matter was in question? Did not the Government know questions had been asked about it in the House? Did not Ministers read the answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Grayndler? Did not Ministers read the answer given by the Minister in the Senate? Did those things not happen? Did those members of the departmental staff who were serving the Minister for Air remain unaware that the matter was in issue? These are the questions that we want to have answered here and we have not had them answered here; instead each of the Ministers who has spoken has endeavoured to hide the situation by discussing whether Ministers are right in using aircraft or not.
The Minister for Trade and Industry, in the main diversionary action in the debate, has tried to shift the whole matter away from the subject of VIP aircraft altogether. The Parliament this afternoon has been treated with contempt. This should not be permitted to continue. How long must we wait to get the answers to the questions which so far have not been answered?
I put the issue clearly: Why has it taken 17 months for the Government to discover that these records existed? Does the fact that it has taken 17 months suggest that the Government has been hiding the situation all that time? Has the Government been aware of the existence of these records and has it adopted this stand so that it can hide any implications that might flow from them? These are the matters in which I believe the people of Australia are interested and in relation to which we need the answers.
Not only members of the Opposition but also the newspapers have been concerned with this. The leading article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald’ has this to say:
Mr Holt must answer the following questions. When did the Government become aware that the flight authorisation books and passenger manifests existed? Was Mr Holt aware of it when he said in his first statement on VIP flights: ‘I have no wish to deny to the public or the Parliament information which should reasonably be available to them’? Was he aware of it when he made his second statement the day before the manifests were tabled? Was Senator McKellar aware of it when he gave his answer a few hours before they were tabled? Was Senator Gorton aware of it when he tabled his first set of information last Wednesday, a few hours before he tabled the manifests? Who prepared the information in the answers given by Mr Holt last year and Senator McKellar last Wednesday?
Mr Holt and his Ministers may have been the victims of bureaucratic incompetence: Parliament and the public may have been the victims of ministerial deception. Either way, someone must accept responsibility.
None of these questions has been answered in the debate this afternoon. The Parliament and the people of this country are in the same position as they were before this debate commenced. The Government has not satisfied either the Parliament or the people in respect of these important questions.
What is the real explanation? Does the Government expect that it can continue to brush aside the Opposition and the people in these matters? Does it expect to continue to govern this country bureaucratically in the fashion in which it has governed it in the past? The Minister for Trade and Industry, when commencing his statement this afternoon, said that the Opposition had asserted and reasserted this proposition. Of course we have, because we have been unable to extract from the Government or any of its Ministers the answers to any of these questions. The Opposition will continue to assert and reassert the necessity for these matters to be dealt with.
This afternoon the Government has continued its attempt to avoid the substance of this matter and to conceal the use of VIP aircraft by its own Ministers and by other people. I believe that it was the Government’s intention at the beginning to conceal the use of VIP aircraft and to avoid that use being fully explored by the Opposition. This afternoon the Government, through its Ministers and its supporters, has merely continued this attitude, so the Opposition has moved a motion which will test confidence in the Government and which calls the Government into question, because it believes that it’s case has been proved to the hilt. It believes that the Government has failed the people of Australia in that, while having supervision of the operation of the VIP aircraft for 17 months, it has continuously, through its responsible Ministers, denied the existence of full and adequate records relating to the use of those aircraft.
The records have emerged under pressure. They have not been brought out willingly by the Government. Several times Ministers have claimed that the Government’s actions could not be faulted because it had willingly produced these records. The Government did not’ produce them willingly. They were produced in the Senate last week because the Government knew that unless it produced them the Senate intended to call officials to the bar of the Senate and crossexamine them about the existence of the records and about other matters. The records were produced in the Senate - not willingly - with the Government’s consent - to avoid that happening. This evening the Government continues to apply the same means to divert the attempt of the Opposition to obtain information - truthful information to which an Opposition is entitled. This want of confidence motion should be carried.
That the motion (Mr Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 34
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.37 to 8 p.m.
– I present the following paper:
Audit Act - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts, for year 1966-67.
Ordered to be printed.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of certain adjustments that the Government has decided to make with regard to the baselines from which the breadth of the 3-miles belt of territorial sea around Australia and the external Territories will henceforth be measured. The adjusted baselines will also be used for the measurement of the breadth of the 12-miles exclusive fisheries zone which is the subject of a Bill now before the House. The changes accord with current rules of international law and are specifically authorised by the International Convention of the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, to which Australia and other countries, including Britain and the United States, are parties.
The general international rule that has hitherto applied, and that continues to apply under the Convention, is that the baseline for the measurement of the territorial sea follows the low-water line along the coast. However, it has long been recognised that straight baselines may be drawn across bays. The waters on the landward side of these baselines are technically known as ‘internal waters’ and, in Australia’s case, they form part of the State or Territory to which they are adjacent.
Under Australia’s present policy, the straight baselines drawn across bays do not exceed 10 miles in length. The Convention authorises the drawing of straight baselines up to 24 miles in length across bays that meet the criteria specified in the Convention, and the Government has decided to apply this principle, wherever relevant, around the coasts of Australia and of the Territories.
Three deep indentations around the Australian coast - Shark Bay, St Vincent Gulf and Spencer Gulf - all of which are bays’ under the criteria specified in the Convention - would not be completely enclosed by baselines 24 miles in length. Shark Bay, at least, is probably already under Australian sovereignty as an ‘historic’ bay. But in any event the Convention authorises the drawing of straight baselines exceeding 24 miles in length where a coastline is deeply indented or cut into, provided that no appreciable departure from the general direction of the coast is involved. Straight baselines will accordingly be drawn across the entrances to Shark Bay and the two South Australian Gulfs.
Mr Speaker, I have given the House a statement of the general principles. The Government plans in due course to publish a map, or series of maps, in order to inform the public of the effect of the application of these principles to Australia.
Motion (by Dr J. F. Cairns) put:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Order of the Day No. 8, Government Business - Vietnam, Ministerial Statement - being called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I present the following report:
Official report of Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the South West Pacific.
I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Since 1964 the Australian Parliament has sent delegations overseas each year at the invitation of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) to see conditions in neighbouring countries at first hand and to extend the goodwill of Australia. Our delegation was the first to visit the South Pacific region. Owing to limitations of time and transport the visit was confined to some of the larger and nearer islands, but even so our itinerary took us to no fewer than five territories and one State. We were greeted warmly in each place and the governments or administrations arranged for the delegation to be shown something of their development and problems. We were able to meet and discuss these matters with members of the representative- assemblies, senior leaders of government and business and officials. Our grateful thanks are due to our hosts for these arrangements and for the hospitality accorded to us. The delegation was drawn from both the Government and Opposition Parties. The members came from four of the six States so that we were able to claim with some justification in the places visited that we represented a broad cross-section of the Australian people.
The delegation worked co-operatively as a parliamentary team, irrespective of party affiliations, and recorded jointly its impressions of the South Pacific region in this report. We would like to express our gratitude to all those who helped to organise our tour. We hope our delegation will be only the first of many to visit the South Pacific. We hope also that there will be more opportunities for the parliamentarians of the South Pacific to visit Australia. The Fiji section of the United Kingdom of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is shortly to become a branch in its own right. Tonga and Western Samoa are also represented at Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meetings. There may well be scope for the convening by Australia of a South West Pacific regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting which would include these islands and others that we did not visit as well as Papua and New Guinea and New Zealand. In conclusion may I extend to our representatives abroad who assisted us most worthily and well our hearty congratulations and good wishes because without their help the delegation could not have functioned as well as it did.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the matter just raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong.
-Order! Is leave granted?
-Order! Leave is not granted.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Without amendment -
States Grants Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Loan Bill 1967.
States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Bill (967.
Slates Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Bill 1967.
Air Navigation (Charges) Bill 1967.
Bankruptcy (Validation) Bill 1967.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 3) 1967.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1967.
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1967-68.
Aged Persons Homes Bill 1967.
International Grains Arrangement Bill 1967.
International Wheat Agreement (Extension) Bill 1967.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1967.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1967.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) 1967.
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1967-68.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1967.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966- 1967. The amendments will operate from tomorrow morning. Proposals No. 22 incorporates changes arising out of reports by the Tariff Board on:
Tractors, engines and other parts,
Photographic and cinematographic goods,
Musical instrument cases, and a report by the Special Advisory Authority on:
Safflower seed oil.
In its report on tractors the Board has not recommended any change in the assistance accorded agricultural wheeled tractors. This sector of the industry is assisted by bounty as recommended in an interim Tariff Board report about a year ago. To date, local production of industrial type tractors has not received assistance either by bounty or by the tariff. The Board found this sector of the industry to be efficient, to be making a worthwhile contribution to industrial development and to be closely related to the manufacture of a wide range of other machinery and equipment. It recommended increased duties to assist the industry to compete with imports. These proposals provide for duties of 20% ad valorem general and 10% preferential, as recommended by the Tariff Board. No increases in duties, however, are proposed for crawler type tractors or for tractor engines.
In respect of most replacement parts the Board has recommended that such goods be dutiable at the rate applicable to the tractor in which they are to be used and this, having regard to the wide range of goods involved, will be done by administrative parts direction as is presently the case. Certain by-laws presently applying to tractor parts will be cancelled and, in consequence, there will be an increase in the duty rate on some replacement parts equivalent to that proposed for the tractors themselves.
The Board also recommended that hydraulic pumps and control valves imported incorporated in industrial tractors be made dutiable at the same rate as if they had been imported separately. The Board has suggested that the level of duties on these types of goods be reviewed in the near future. This aspect is still being examined.
I turn now to the Tariff Board report on photographic and cinematographic goods. This is the first overall review of the sensitised photographic and cinematographic materials industry since 1936. The sensitised photographic and cinematographic materials industry includes the coating of base film or paper, and the slitting and packaging of local and imported coated materials. The Board found that the industry is efficient and worthy of protection. lt has recommended industry rates of duty of 17½% general and 10% preferential with non-protective rates on certain materials imported in bulk rolls. The existing duties have been mainly 27½% general and 12½% preferential.
The Board considered that these industry rates, together with action to protect against imports at prices below normal values, should enable the industry to achieve reasonable profits. In recommending the non-protective rates for bulk rolls, the Board considered the rates would provide assistance to companies engaged in the slitting and packaging of films and papers from imported rolls. The Board considered that this would help in maintaining an efficient photographic materials industry and give consumers a larger choice of materials.
The last Tariff Board report covered by these Proposals concerns musical instrument cases whether imported empty or containing musical instruments. The Government has accepted the Board’s recommendations for no change in the duties on musical instrument cases imported without instruments and on cases imported with violins and a wide range of other instruments. On guitar cases, however, the Government has accepted a Tariff Board recommendation for an increase in the duties from 7½% ad valorem general and free preferential to 45% general and 32½% preferential. This will bring the general rate of duty on cases imported with guitars into line with the general rate of duty on guitar cases imported empty.
The report by the Special Advisory Authority concerns safflower seed oil. The
SpecialAdvisoryAuthorityfoundthatthe overseas price of safflower seed oil is subject to wide fluctuations at relatively short intervals. If some special form of protection is not provided against these fluctations, it would not be possible to maintain stability in the industry. Stability is important from the point of view of the processor and even more so from the point of view of the grower.
In recent months there had been a substantial fall in overseas prices for safflower seed oil and the Authority considers that urgent action is necessary to protect the Australian industry. The Authority has recommended a temporary duty on imported safflower seed oil of the amount, if any, by which the free on board price is less than $1.15 per gallon. This temporary duty was calculated by the Authority on what could be considered reasonable prices for Australian produced oils in various grades based on the Australian guaranteed price of seed to growers of$95 per long ton delivered Sydney. The temporary duty would be in addition to the existing duties of 30c per gallon general and 28.3c per gallon preferential.
Details of all the tariff alterations in the Proposals are contained in the Summaries of Tariff Alterations attached to copies of the proposals being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Yarra) (8.26]- The Government expects me to move that the debate on this matter be adjourned and I will do so. However, the Opposition notices that the Government’s programme for this evening has been completely dislocated. Item No. 8 on the notice paper was down for debate. It is the Minister’s Statement on Vietnam.
-Order! If the honourable member intends to move that the debate be adjourned, he cannot speak on this subject now. He must either move that the debate be adjourned or speak to the Minister’s motion.
– Then I will speak to the motion. The subject before the House now is Customs Tariff Proposals No. 22, which the Government has introduced and which will no doubt in the course of the next sessional period undergo a closer examination by the House. I want to debate the matter for a few minutes at this stage to try to secure from the Government some indication of its plans for this evening. The blue sheet showed pretty clearly that this evening we would be debating Item No. 8 - Vietnam - Ministerial Statement. The Opposition is prepared to debate this subject. The galleries are full, but the Government will not proceed.
-Order! The honourable member is getting far removed from the matter that is before the Chair and that is the Customs Tariff Proposals. If he intends to talk on that subject, he should do so.
– I submit that what I am saying is relevant, Mr Speaker, because you will agree with me that it is necessary for the Opposition to have some indication of the Government’s plan. Not only was this indication given to us, but earlier today the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) stressed the urgent necessity to debate Vietnam. It is quite unreasonable to imagine that the Opposition can organise its affairs to meet the Government in a debate as important as this if the Government suddenly changes its plans without giving notice to anybody. I submit that this is quite unreasonable. We ought to have some explanation from the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), his advisers or other Ministers for this very significant change in Government business.
The matter before the House is one of detail. If the Government wishes, I and other Opposition members will proceed to debate it. The Government could then be satisfied, because in the next hour or two we would be debating tariff proposals. This is not a course of action that I would choose. It is a course of action which seems to be forced upon the Opposition because of the absence of other items of business from the notice paper which the Government appears to be wanting to debate. Therefore, I submit that we deserve and require some explanation from the Leader of the House as to why he has substituted these customs tariff proposals, which are in some considerable detail, for other matters which the House was prepared to debate. I instance that I sought leave to discuss the matter raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Stokes). The Government has put aside the debate on Vietnam, which it considered to be vital and urgent and which the Opposition is prepared to debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has a speech ready. Is the explanation that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) cannot prepare two speeches in one day? Did he have enough in the debate this afternoon on VIP aircraft? Is there some other explanation for the strange course of action the Government is taking?
-Order! I have drawn the honourable member’s attention to the matter that is before the Chair.
– What the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns)’ has said is complete nonsense. There is obviously no liaison between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Yarra, because this course was agreed on this afternoon between the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden).
– What was agreed upon?
– The arrangement to have the customs tariff proposals called on.
-Order! The business before the House is the customs tariff proposals which were introduced by the Minister for Civil Aviation representing the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– If the Government is unable to proceed with any other business I will move-
-Order! The honourable member has already spoken.
– May I speak, Mr Speaker?
-If the Minister speaks now he will close the debate.
– Mr Speaker, may I move that the debate be adjourned?
– Order! The honourable member for Yarra has already spoken. Somebody else may move for the adjournment of the debate.
– Mr Speaker, may I ask leave to continue my remarks when the Government is ready to proceed with the matter?
– Order! The honourable member cannot seek leave to continue his remarks. As no other honourable member is moving that the debate be adjourned I put the question:
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . 30
– Order ! In accordance with practice, the Leader of the Opposition moved from his position on the members’ benches and sat outside of the chamber. He is traditionally paired with the Prime Minister. This has been the practice for many years. There is no substance in the point of order.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Musical instrument cases.
Photographic and cinematographic goods.
Tractors, engines and other parts.
Pursuant to Statute I also present a Special Advisory Authority report on the following subject:
Safflower seed oil.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Excise Tariff Proposals (No. 2) which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Excise Tariff 1921-1967. Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) announced on 6th October last that as and from 1st January 1968, all ships stores consumed by passengers and crew of overseas ships whilst in Australian waters would be exempt from customs duties. The Customs Act already provides authority to exempt stores from duty and the Government’s decision can be implemented by the amendment of the appropriate regulations in so far as imported goods, used as ships stores, are concerned. However, the present excise legislation contains no authority to make regulations exempting ships stores from excise duty. It is proposed, therefore, to insert a new item in the Schedule of the Excise Tariff, to operate as and from 1st January 1968, to provide for the exemption of excisable goods consumed as ships stores.
The decision to exempt ships stores from duties will bring Australia into line with other countries in the treatment of these goods. It is hoped that the Government’s decision, taken during the United Nations International Tourist Year’ will help to foster overseas tourism to Australia. The decision is also in line with the Government’s desire to streamline facilities for the convenience of overseas travellers. I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr J. F. Cairns) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Swartz, and read i first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill provides for the validation, until 10th June 1968, of customs duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 19 to 22 inclusive which have been moved in this House since 4th October last. Honourable members will recall that three tariff Bills have just recently been debated by the House relating to’ matters introduced prior to 4th October. It is not possible to examine these important matters with the care they deserve before the House goes into recess and the Government proposes the debate be deferred till the autumn session. This Bill validates the collection of duties to enable the enacting Bill to be introduced at that time. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Leave granted for debate to continue.
– I see no reason why the matter should not be decided this evening. 1 do not think there is any necessity to move the adjournment of this Bill. The Opposition does not oppose the validation of these customs duties and therefore if the Minister desires to dispose of the matter this evening I see no reason why he should not do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill at all. We are happy to facilitate the Government’s disposing of it now thereby giving the Government an opportunity perhaps to deal with other important matters that have been on the notice paper. I suggest that this may be a suitable opportunity to deal with item No. 8. Honourable members will remember that that item is a statement about-
-Order! The honourable member will realise, of course, that the scope of debate on the third reading of a Bill is distinctly limited. I suggest that he come back to the Bill.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I do not desire to go beyond the limits available to me to discuss the Bill at this stage. I merely want to suggest that the Opposition sees no reason why these duties should not be validated before the autumn session. We have looked at these proposals and we are satisfied that this would be a justifiable course to adopt. That in any case would be a strong reason for not opposing the Bill at this stage. But since we have a much stronger reason than that - the one I have just mentioned - to facilitate the Government’s bringing on item No. 8, I can say on behalf of the Opposition that we are quite happy to see the Bill passed in this session at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise on a point of order. I rose to speak to the Bill but you did not notice me, Mr Speaker. I am not complaining about that. However, I wanted to draw to your notice that copies of the Bill have not yet been circulated. I wanted to have a look at the Bill and say something about it. I have seen the Minister’s second reading speech, but the Bill has not yet been circulated to honourable members although it has been passed by the House.
-The Bill is being circulated at the moment to all honourable members.
Bill read a third time.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is intended to protect the proprietor of a registered design against the importation of articles to which his design has been applied abroad without his authority. The Designs Act 1906-1966 provides for the registration of designs. The owner of the copyright in a registered design has certain remedies in respect of an infringement of the copyright in bts registered design. Section 30 of the Act provides that it is an infringement for a person, without the authority of the registered owner, to apply a registered design to articles in respect of which it is registered or to sell articles to which the registered design has been applied without the authority of the registered owner.
In June of this year, the question came before the Supreme Court of New South Wales whether it was an infringement to sell imported articles to which a registered design had been applied abroad without the authority of the registered owner in Australia. In that case, Hella-Australia Pty Ltd v. Quinton Hazell (Aust.) Pty Ltd, the Court held that this was not made an infringement by section 30 of the Act. The Court held that the section did not apply to articles to which a registered design had been applied abroad. This decision meant that the Designs Act gives no protection to the proprietor of a registered design against the importation and sale in Australia of goods to which his design has been applied abroad. The present Bill will remedy this defect in the Designs Act.
In addition to the acts which now constitute an infringement of a registered design, the Bill provides that it will be an infringement for a person, without the licence or authority of the registered owner, to import into Australia, for the purposes of sale or for the purposes of any trade or business, articles to which the registered design had been applied abroad without the authority of the registered owner or to sell any such articles.
In my second reading speech on the Copyright Bill on 18th May this year I said that I was proposing to undertake a comprehensive review of the Designs Act.
– Is that the review that was promised in August 1954?
– That 1 cannot say. The promise that I made was on 18th May this year. I made no promise in 1954. I was otherwise engaged. It has not yet been possible to institute the revision mentioned in my second reading speech on the Copyright Bill - that Bill has not yet been passed through this House - but I intend to proceed wilh the revision as soon as possible. I considered, however, that the situation disclosed by the decision of the New South Wales Supreme Court to which I have referred made it necessary to amend the present Act in the manner now proposed without waiting for that general revision. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26 October (vide page 2397), on motion by Mr Fairbairn: That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [8.52.1- When this matter was discussed in the House last week the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) said that the Opposition would oppose the measure in the form in which it was presented, for a number of reasons, the first of them being the haste in which the matter was being dealt with. The Bill had been brought into the House a few days before. We were told by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) that the Bill included a Common Mining Code and that it was a model Commonwealth and State Bill. The feeling el i’.e Opposition was that the matters involved were of such fundamental importance t>;at they warranted much deeper consideration than the House had been able to give them.
As the debate proceeded it was evident that there were a number of matters in particular that concerned not only members on this side of the House but also members on the other side. We thought it appropriate to make our objection in the form of an amendment that I propose to move. The honourable member for Cunningham indicated our general opposition, and the amendment sets out our objection in more detail. I move:
The Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said that this legislation is of historic importance. We concede the point that it is historic in that it is unique for a common mining code to have to be developed in respect not of the internal territories of Australia but of what is described as the continental shelf. As the Minister said, the continental shelf of Australia covers an area of about 1 million square miles. This is about one-third of the total area of Australia itself. It is certainly a larger area than that of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland combined. I have a document here which gives some concept of the extent of the continental shelf. I am sorry it cannot be incorporated in Hansard. It is a map - in my view a magnificent map- which was contained in the last issue of ‘National Geographic’ magazine. It portrays the Indian Ocean floor and it shows very clearly the western half of the continental shelf of Australia. Having in mind the modern mining methods that can be used in underwater drilling, nobody can say what the potentiality of this area is.
It seems also that no doubt is held, either internally or internationally, that whatever is located beneath this vast area of water is really the property of the people of Australia. The Attorney-General conceded that the other evening. He said:
It has been suggested that the Commonwealth in some way has parted with its asset. On the contrary the Commonwealth continues to maintain that the resources are a national asset and the Commonwealth has a definite interest in what eventually happens to them.
This is the view of the Labor Party also, but we suggest that because of the rather piratical franchises that have been granted to certain concerns these areas are not likely to be developed in the interests of Australia and that they are more likely to be developed in the interests of the private profit of very large companies the majority of which are not really Australian companies at all. This is the basic reason why we oppose the schema of legislation as it came before this House; there is a great danger that this very significant area will get out of the ambit of rational development for the benefit of Australia. If the resources dealt with by these Bills are improperly developed, the whole of the fuel and power situation as it has been allowed to develop in Australia up to the present will be jeopardised. The measures now before us concern the development of petroleum resources that ultimately may come up in the form of either fuel or natural gas. This legislation has been brought in hastily. Up to the present, even the BHP-Esso interests are rather cagey about whether they have found gas or whether they have found oil. I suggest that they have found a lot more oil than they are prepared to admit.
Here, I direct the attention of the House to an article that appeared in the financial section of the Melbourne ‘Age’ on Saturday last, under the title, ‘The “Tight” Hole Policy’. It mentions the position of the shareholders of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. Everybody knows the wild rush that has just taken place to acquire shares in that Company. Their value has risen in a very short time from something like $5 to $15 each. As my colleague, the honourable member for Cunningham, suggested, that at least posits that in the anticipation of the market the minimum potential of this sort of development is perhaps of the order of $l,000m to $2,000m. There was an interesting leading article in today’s issue of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ entitled ‘What does Si, 000m mean?’ I have suggested in this House for a good many years that it is time the House and the Australian community had a better perspective on the real meaning of sums of the magnitude of $100m, $200m or, as this leading article suggests, $ 1,000m. To most people used to thinking in terms of a weekly wage, a sum of even Sim tends to appear rather large. When one gets into the realm of $ 1,000m, one is getting into an order of magnitude that most people would suggest was related to astronomy rather than to mathematics. The article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of this morning talked in terms of the expected earnings from minerals on external account over the next couple of years. The point was well taken that expenses and receipts of the magnitude involved are likely to continue over a period rather than to occur just in the immediate future. This points to the need for some more careful planning of this kind of development.
As I indicated earlier, this contrasts somewhat with the haste in which this very complicated legislation has been brought in. It contrasts also with the findings of the report of the Coal Utilisation Research Advisory Committee, which was presented to this Parliament in December 1962. This Committee had a comprehensive membership. Its Chairman was Mr W. W. Pettingell, whose name has loomed up somewhat in this House recently in respect of a difference of opinion, if one so likes to describe it, with the Government about the manner in which our natural gas resources should be developed. The Committee, at paragraph 228 of its report, made this point: so long as coal remains the country’s only indigenous source of fossil fuel, it is desirable that the industry should eventually rely on some form of complete gasification of coal.
The Committee took the point that if we had to depend on indigenous sources of fuel, coal at that stage seemed to be the best bet. 1 point out that that opinion was given only about 5 years ago. One hardly finds the term ‘natural gas’ used in this report, except in the sense that it was looming on the European horizon at that stage. The recent finds and modern technology have completely changed the likely pattern of the future use of power and fuel in Australia. I suggest that this Government has been most prodigal in the way in which it has allocated exploration licences. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), I think, pointed out the other evening that in respect of the North Sea development the same sort of concerns as have been given licences over thousands of square miles in Australia were allocated areas of only a few hundred square miles and in some instances even less than 100 square miles.
– I suggest that the question is not whether there are 500 million consumers to be supplied. The question at issue is: How should we allow development to take place in what nobody denies is the public domain?
– This is a national asset.
– I think that the Minister appreciates the point more than anybody else. He says that this is a national asset. I concur in that. But the way in which licences have been allocated is remarkable. Let me quote from official government figures some of the areas that have been allocated.
– The honourable member
– The honourable gentleman, as ..somebody has pointed out, seems sometimes to have a mentality attuned to the casino rather than to national development. I do not want to engage in any sideline discussions with him. If he wants the situation put squarely from this side of the House, let me say that we on this side are concerned about a piece of public property that is the equivalent, as I have said, of about one-third of the total land area of Australia. In Queensland alone, 172,645 square miles have been allocated to organisations such as the Continental Oil Co. of Australia Ltd, Union Oil Development Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Australia Ltd, each of which has a one-third share in the title to an area of 92,230 square miles. These organisations have nice, Australian sounding names; but they are anything but Australian companies.
These three companies have title to an area under the sea as great as the area of Victoria. Can anybody in this Parliament seriously maintain that any one concern or group should be given a franchise covering an area as great as that of Victoria?
– But have they found anything?
– Precisely, they have not found oil yet. Why should they be given all the bottom of the sea to roam on? Why not give them a small area of perhaps 1,000 square miles? Why give them more than 92,000 square miles? We do not know whether this area has been given to Australian companies or to foreign companies sheltering under Australian names.
– Look at what the list shows for Western Australia.
– 1 shall come to that. The area allocated in New South Wales is not as great. Shell Development Australia Pty Ltd has been given 4,910 square miles. I come back to Queensland again. Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Ltd, under farmout to Australian Gulf Oil - whatever the description ‘farmout’ means - has ‘been given 57,000 square miles. In Western Australia, Wapet, which we know is made up of initials standing for West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd, has been allocated 123,020 square miles - an area about one and one-half times that of Victoria, if honourable members want to see it in perspective. The Woodside-BOC-Shell group has been allocated 140,000 square miles - an area almost twice the size of Victoria.
– What is the context of this?
– Apparently, the honourable gentleman is prepared to say that the magnificent potential, in one form, of a few square miles in Bass Strait is worth anything from $ 1,000m to $2,000m and he evidently has no objection to areas twice the size of Victoria being farmed out to companies whose financial structure is not even indicated to us. We suggest that until such information is forthcoming this House is not only voting blindly on the situation but is allowing development against already established power and fuel organisations in the States of New South Wales and Victoria which are the principal States concerned. The Gas and Fuel Corporation has a capital installation of approximately $100m. Its activities could be thrown into jeopardy possibly by the wrong sort of development. A trend has been established* already, so far as cost is concerned, against the use of black coal, which the former rationalisation committee suggested ought to be encouraged. Gradually there has been an intrusion against coal in favour of crude oil, every gallon of which had to be imported into Australia. Now when Australia is on the verge of finding the crude oil and gas that it requires the Government wants to hand that over to somebody outside Australia. Also there are arguments as to how the material that is found under the sea shall be taken from the sea to the land and then distributed to the ultimate consumer. How presumptuous that a concern like BHP-Esso which, in my view, was not looking for gas at all but was looking for oil, when it found gas, had the hide to suggest to the Gas and Fuel Corporation which has had a reticulation system in existence for approximately 100 years now: Let us build the pipeline’. That illustrates a kind of Gilbertian situation. I came across this statement recently, when reading a biography about the famous Lord Keynes, whose name is revered. He said:
Ancient Egypt was doubly fortunate, and doubtless used it fabled wealth, in that it possessed 2 activities, namely, pyramid building as well as the search for the precious metals, the fruits of which, since they could not serve the needs of man by being consumed, did not stale with abundance.
The Middle Ages built cathedrals and sang dirges. Two pyramids, 2 masses for the dead, are twice as good as one; but not so 2 railways from London to York.
I suggest that the way in which this pipeline arrangement is being contemplated in Australia at the moment is almost on a par with building 2 railways from London to York. An argument is persisting as to whether the Australian Gas Light Co. should have its own pipeline. Our view is that a pipeline ought to be like a railway; it ought to be public property and the use of it ought to be regulated. One of the suggestions contained in our amendment is the need and the desirability for the construction and operation by public authority of interstate pipelines for the transport of petroleum. It is astonishing that when it is proposed that the Government should find $10m, $15m or even $100m for a public purpose, somebody suggests that kind of expenditure is wrong. When the Government talks in terms of the future development of natural gas and petroleum, the amount of which nobody yet knows, it talks in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars - at least $100m if that is what a pipeline costs. I suggest that the sum will be more than that in terms of the pipeline contemplated. I suggest that the $100m to be expended by Australian Gas Light Co. or by BHP-Esso-
– The sum is $50m.
– If the sum is $50m, is it more estimable to build a private pipeline than to build a public pipeline? I suggest that the construction of a pipeline is similar to the initial construction of the railways in that there will be so much wrangling, if the Government allows private pipelines to be constructed in Australia, that the community will be glad to have the pipeline nationalised ultimately. Why not avoid that difficulty in the first place? The construction of a pipeline should be undertaken by a public authority, to be developed for the public good. Surely any responsible House of Parliament would concern itself with the potentialities that are involved here. The expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for installations and distributive systems that will yield products that are worth thousands of millions of dollars can affect the whole future of energy utilisation in Australia in the next 10 or 15 years. I suggest that that is the perspective in which the matter ought to be contemplated. I would like to hear anybody argue to the contrary. If that is the perspective in which the matter ought to be contemplated surely the Government was wrong in introducing the Bill a fortnight ago, calling it historic, and claiming that for once the Government had agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the agreement is for the Commonwealth, as the custodian of the public, to vacate its public responsibility and hand the development over to private enterprises and State wrangling instead of having national ownership.
The two areas in which the pipeline will have most effect in the next 10 or 15 years are the industrial development of New South Wales and of Victoria. No-one can argue that Sydney and Melbourne are seeing eye to eye on this and that Sir Henry Bolte and Mr Askin are hugging each other instead of being at more than arm’s length about the proposition. One of the ironies of the situation is that the Gas and Fuel Corporation in Victoria, because of the actions of an earlier Labor Government, is for all practical purposes a public company. The Premier of the State adopts as his criterion for selling the gas to. another State what the market will bear. The criterion should not be what the market will bear; the criterion should be the cost to those who produce the oil at the well head, that is reasonable in terms of the capital that has been expended. The approach to development should be designed to give power and energy to industrial and domestic users in Australia at the lowest possible price.
Some arguments as to the totality of power and fuel utilisation within a State and the relative cost as between one source of energy and another may be raised. But surely a national requirement such as power should not be fragmented between six States and surely Mr Bolte should not be allowed to call the tune for New South Wales. To my mind that is not national thinking, lt is the balmanisation of Australia. What we want in Australia is sensible national development that is rationally patterned. We should also know more about those providing private capital. At least we know with Esso-BHP that half of the capital is provided by foreign investors. But with these companies that have been granted areas that are twice the size of Victoria we do not know the amount of foreign capital that will be invested. That is why we have suggested in our amendment that this matter should be referred to a select committee of this House for inquiry into the amount of foreign capital involved.
It was thought that the finding of oil in Australia would save us an import bill of $200m to $300m but we may find that because of returns to foreign investors instead of oil being a national asset it will become a national liability and we will have an invisible import that is just as great as the import cost of oil is at the moment. That is the kind of situation that the Labor Party wants to avoid. We suggest that this development is not’ moving nearly as fast as some of the frenzies on the stock exchange indicate and that a little bit of common sense should be imparted into the issue. The rule of common sense rather than the rout of the casino should determine the pace of this development.
Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the motion.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has said very little in the last half hour other than to reiterate or perhaps emphasise what has been previously said by speakers on the other side of the House. It is strange, though, that he rather than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) or the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), who led for the Opposition, should move the amendment which we now have before us. The Opposition must have had some new thoughts over the weekend. It is just one of those extremely foolish amendments that should not be put into effect. It proposes the appointment of a committee. The assumption is apparently that a select committee of this House could bring in a better report than could any of the State governments or the Commonwealth Government with all its expert organisations such as the Bureau of Mineral Resources. This is just so stupid that it is difficult to see why the Opposition would want to move an amendment of that kind. The honourable member spoke of foreign capital and the need to know the people who control the companies which have permits. This can be found out by anyone. This information is published from year to year and would not be difficult to find.
– Ninety per cent of the capital is foreign.
– There is a lot of foreign capital and there is a lot of Australian capital, too. The second half of the Opposition’s amendment deals with the question of pipelines. Those pipelines which come from the source of offshore petroleum to the shores of a State are dealt with in this Bill. However, pipelines in general are not the function of this Parliament at all but are a question for the State governments.
– Opposition speakers do not know what they are talking about.
– That is true. One can only imagine that they have moved the amendment because there is a Senate election soon and they want to argue about foreign capital. If we did not have foreign capital this country would not be as far advanced as it is at the present time. We have to realise that we are in the process of building a great new nation. It is only a few years since those who were qualified to judge estimated that because of the lack of water in Australia, only the coastal fringe could be developed and therefore we could not have a greater population than about 20 million to 25 million.
– Who said that?
– This has been said over and over again. A dramatic change has taken place, particularly in the last 18 years since this Government has been in power. Now it is possible that this country will have a population of 100 million or even 200 million. This is all because of the opportunity that has been given for development. One only has to think of the enormous progress that has been made. I read somewhere today, and it has been stated before by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), that by 1972 mining exports from this country may exceed $ 1,000m. This will make minerals our greatest exports, far exceeding wool or any other commodity. Just imagine the discoveries and the development that have occurred since this Government has been in power. This Government has given encouragement to people to go out and discover the country’s natural resources. Uranium, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, silver, gold, nickel and a host of other resources have all been discovered since this Government has been in power.
– They have all been given away.
– What nonsense. Oil refining plants have been built throughout this country and’ aluminium production has been increased. With the great development of water resources and the greater development in power, it looks as though the production of these natural resources will far exceed any other type of production in this country. This is all because this Government has been a stable government and is trusted by the rest of the world. It has given encouragement to private enterprise and has laid the foundations for private enterprise. Oil and natural gas resources have recently been discovered, but if the Government had approached the matter in the way that the Labor Party suggests in this amendment we would not have had these discoveries because the Labor Party’s policy would not have given encouragement to private enterprise. The search for oil in Australia has been sponsored largely by this Government. A great deal of taxpayers’ money has been spent in encouraging the search for oil. The search for oil and natural gas involves the expenditure of large amounts of risk capital. This capital is not available in a country with fewer than 12 million people. We must have recourse to companies with adequate financial resources to undertake this search.
We need to discover oil in large quantities. We have not yet done this. Thank God the prospects are good, but we need to make further discoveries. The Opposition’s suggestion, if adopted, would prevent us from getting the oil we need. Western Australia, the State in which oil was first discovered, is well on the way to production. Queensland is in much the same position. Large discoveries of offshore oil and gas have now been made in Victoria. No discoveries have yet been made in New South Wales, but who knows where oil and gas will be discovered next if companies engaged in searching are adequately encouraged. Who knows what reserves of oil and gas we have in this country? I venture to suggest that no honourable member knows. We must encourage people to search for oil and gas.
Australia is a fast growing country. We must treat development of this country on a national basis. In this regard I agree with the opinions expressed by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. Let us indeed have a national outlook. We must look beyond State boundaries, because great things are happening. We must use our manpower and our natural resources in the proper order of priority so that we may build a great nation. This is an important consideration at a time when we are making discoveries of oil and gas. Every State has its own priorities of development, but I am sure that they will look beyond State boundaries and adopt a national out- look. In my opinion this legislation is a triumph for the unity of the States and the Commonwealth because two of the six States which signed the agreement with the Commonwealth are governed by Labor governments. To obtain agreement of all six States and the Commonwealth for the good of the nation as a whole is an extraordinary accomplishment in all the circumstances.
Under this legislation each State retains its sovereign rights. The Commonwealth has not given away any of its legal rights. Had we not entered into this agreement, as sure as we sit here tonight the discovery of oil off the coast of Victoria would have led to serious litigation between Victoria and the Commonwealth or between Victoria and other States. This is something which we set out to avoid. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) referred to this matter and to what is happening in other countries. We know that in the United States $800m is involved in litigation. There is litigation also in Canada. Once litigation commences no-one can foretell the results. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States avoids any possibility of litigation as between a State and the Commonwealth or as between the States. This is the great feature of the agreement. I repeat: This agreement is a trumph for its organisers. The success of the agreement depends, naturally, on the commonsense of the people who administer these matters. One weak link could destroy the agreement.
Everybody must know that Australia’s development is dependent primarily upon energy, that is, power and fuel. You cannot start to develop a great nation until you have sufficient energy. In addition, you must have ample supplies of water. Given these two essentials the sky is the limit. In any country as sparsely populated as is Australia decentralisation cannot begin until there are ample supplies of energy and water. We cannot support a large population unless we build up our manufacturing industries, because we do not have great centres of population dependent entirely upon primary production. Primary production is an essential base to our development, but it does not support a large population. So our manufacturing industries must be developed. To do this we must adopt a national attitude towards the production of energy. Energy must be made available to the great centres of population. It must be made available in other areas to encourage decentralisation. These are the things to which the agreement pays regard.
It is estimated that in the next 15 years the demand for oil as a source of energy will double in the free world. Some of the statistics relating to the demand for oil are illuminating and here I have in mind the remarks of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) when speaking in this debate last Thursday. Petroleum today provides the United States with 75% of all its energy needs and it provides the rest of the free world with 55% of its total energy needs. In the next 15 years the free world must produce 300 billion barrels of oil to meet estimated demand. This is double the quantity of oil used since it was first seriously marketed in 1859. These are striking figures. I do not think sufficient regard is paid to the need for oil in the future when suggestions are made that would hamper the search for oil in Australia. Three hundred billion barrels is equivalent to the free world’s present known resources of oil. So there is no over-abundance of oil in the free world. As a matter of fact, we will be in a sorry plight if we do not discover further sources of oil. It is alleged that in some places the production of oil is being curtailed. This is so, but if we are to develop Australia we must discover oil in this country. The figures that I have given are authentic. They are taken from a booklet produced by the Mobil Oil Co.
– What did the Shell company say in the matter?
– The figures which are shown are not disputed. It is only a big world-wide organisation of the type that is now operating in Australia that can organise the discovery and production of oil in the way that we need. Only companies of that type have the know-how, which they have gained in other parts of the world, to find oil and gas. The attitude of the Australian Labor Party to this Bill is thoroughly stupid. Honourable members opposite begin by seeking to prevent the passage of the Bill which will enable the production of oil even before the oil is discovered. We will not lose anything if oil is produced in Australia. We still have six States with complete and absolute sovereign powers. We still have a Commonwealth government with a Constitution capable of controlling affairs within its boundaries. If we produce oil in this country it will not be lost to us merely because the discovery was initiated by foreign capital. It will be produced in Australia and will be to our benefit. But people who bring capital into Australia must be treated fairly and be encouraged.
What is wrong with encouraging people to bring capital into Australia, especially when they have the know-how which is not available to us otherwise? There is no other way in which we can get oil in the quantities that we should be aiming to get. To find oil we may have to do many things. I: may be necessary to go beyond the continental shelf. It may be necessary to find means of searching in the greater ocean depths. Technicians are now trying to find some way of doing this. Who knows what will be found in the greater oceans depths? While we are so enthusiastic about this we must not lose sight of the fact that the time might well come when the mining and retorting of oil from shale in Australia will be carried out in great quantities. This situation must come about. We must bear in mind also that New South Wales is the major State in Australia and is the one where no oil has been discovered. It is by far the greatest potential user of natural gas for industry. I understand that the New South Wales Government is very satisfied with this legislation, despite the fact that it has no oil and gas of its own. We would not be adhering to the spirit of the agreement if industry in New South Wales did not receive the same treatment in relation to gas and oil as industry in other States.
As I went through the Bill in the first place I was somewhat worried about two aspects of it. My first worry was on the grant of production licences as distinct from permit licences. The grant of these licences is in the hands of the designated authority of the State, but there is consultation between the State and the Commonwealth. However, the State has first call upon the production for its own purposes. Nothing is stated as to the fixation of prices or at what price the product will be made available to the various States and this may lead to some trouble. Unfortunately statements made by the Premier of Victoria in the past have worried some of us, but now that Victoria is a signatory to the agreement I am sure that it will conform to the spirit of the agreement. I have enough confidence in Mr Bolte to know that he will do that.
I come next to the question of oil pipelines. The Bill deals with offshore pipelines but does not provide for pipelines through a State. This also is a matter for the designated authority. No special consultation is provided for and this could give a State far reaching powers. This provision also has worried me. The States will have absolute power in connection with any pipeline that passes through their State and in this matter we will have to depend on the provisions of the annex to the agreement which is worth reading. It states:
The Governments the parties to the Agreement to which this Memorandum of Understanding is an Annex have, further to that Agreement, had more general discussions concerning trade between the States, and between the States and the Territories forming part of the Commonwealth, in petroleum the subject of the legislation of the Commonwealth and the States referred to in the Agreement. The Governments arc agreed that they will encourage and will not seek to restrict any such trade and with that in view they will confer from time to time as any of’ them request. They declare their common intention not to discriminate against any such trade.
Those terms are quite broad and I am sure express what we would want to see. Although provocative statements have been made in the past now that the agreements have been signed by the six State Premiers I feel sure that all States will play the game and that we will be able to carry on in our work.
The honourable member for Mackellar expressed worry the other night on the size of the exploration areas, a matter which has been mentioned also by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, lt must be remembered that the exploration for petroleum resources is a risky business in which big money is involved. The important thing is to have the capital and the know-how to produce oil. I have no worry about the size of exploration areas. Perhaps the honourable member should be reminded of clause 21 of the Bill which states that a permit shall not exceed 400 blocks, that is, roughly 10,000 square miles. The States have already issued permits in many cases and some which have been issued are for an area exceeding 50,000 square miles and in one case a permit was for an area of 140,000 square miles. However, a great number of the permits issued are for only 10,000 square miles. Of 57 titles in existence, up to this point no less than 43 of the permits have been for areas of less than 10,000 square miles. So they have not been issued in the way that has been suggested. Permits for very small areas have been issued in many instances.
It must be remembered also that in six years, subject to the permitee carrying out certain work under the licence, half the area must be surrendered, and after each subsequent five years the area is again halved. During that time certain work must be performed in accordance with the conditions of each individual permit. The honourable member for Mackellar referred to the size of areas held by the Australian company, Broken Hill Pty Ltd, and mentioned that by ‘some lucky chance’ this company had a half interest in 22,000 square miles. I should like to make two points. First, to refer to BHP holding an area by some lucky chance does scant justice to the company. Secondly, according to the figures tabled by the Minister, BHP through its subsidiary Hematite Petroleum Pty Ltd, has interests in more than 62,000 square miles of offshore areas adjacent to Victoria. South Australia and Tasmania. This is a big Australian company.
The honourable member for Mackellar deplored the fact that a greater share of the offshore area was not held by Australian companies. If is well known, and the point was very effectively made in the Ministers second reading speech, that offshore exploration is a highly sophisticated task calling for specialised knowledge and equipment and great technical and financial resources. Let us consider the BHP approach to this problem. In this company we have, as I said earlier, one of Australia’s greatest mining companies. Faced with the task of exploring offshore, the company took advice from experts of world renown. It then sought out a partner and it brought Esso in with it. Esso could bring to the operation special skills and resources needed for successful offshore search. The Esso capital from overseas was not brought in blindly.
This was done by our own Australian company because it needed the assistance of a company that knew how to do this work. This should be remembered when efforts are made to belittle the Agreement. Other competent Australian companies have taken a different course. The position is not that no Australian company need apply, as the honourable member for Mackellar said, but rather that Australian companies have sought overseas partners who could bring in the skills and resources needed for this work. So no valid argument can be advanced in relation to the size of the permits that have been granted and will be granted under this legislation. 1 would like to conclude with a few remarks about transmission. A good deal has been said about this aspect. This will call for the utmost honesty and co-operation between the partners to the Agreement. Notwithstanding the Agreement and the legislation that flows from it, we could find ourselves embroiled in a very complicated legal action, and I am sure that none of the States or the Commonwealth wants that. Nothing has been said about means of transmission other than pipelines, but there is no reason to suppose that this is the only means of transmission. Oil is brought to the Australian refineries today in large tankers. Who can say that transportation by train cannot overcome some of our difficulties? I read a statement on this subject only recently in the ‘Railways of Australia Network’. It stated:
A train of gas tank wagons running daily between Melbourne and Sydney could keep Sydney supplied with natural gas from the recently discovered Victorian gas fields.
With a market potential 30 to 40 per cent greater than that of any other State, New South Wales offers the largest Australian market for natural gas.
Industries use the largest proportion of the gas, and these industries are concentrated in the coastal strip that includes Port Kembla. Sydney and Newcastle.
This is not an idle statement. It was made as a result of a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Engineering group, which includes technical experts in this field of activity.
The cost of establishing fleets of rail tanks would be about $4. 5m compared with an estimated cost of $50m for a pipeline from Sydney to Melbourne. I do not say that this is the answer. All I say is that the time has not yet arrived when we must make a final decision to use pipelines internally. Much investigation must be done before a determination is made and many considerations must be weighed. Firstly, we must establish whether we have enough gas to warrant establishing a pipeline. We do not know what quantities of oil we have. The main consideration at this time is to continue with the mutual agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. I commend the Government and the Minister on the Agreement and the legislation. This is historic legislation. The spirit envisaged in it is the spirit that we need to develop Australia into a great nation. When we can disregard State boundaries and when the States can adopt a national outlook, then and then only will we build a great nation.
– The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) ended his speech by saying that this is historic legislation. Perhaps it would be fitting to say that it will go down in history as another example of the way that this Government gives public property to private enterprise on a silver platter. We are discussing legislation that relates to an industry which, by its monopoly power, can influence government decisions and developments, good and bad, throughout the entire world. A consideration of events down through history will reveal that this is so. The oil industry has always been known as a vicious industry. Some people have gone so far as to say that this is an industry without a country, for its knows no flag. Indeed, it respects only gallons and dollars.
Be this as it may; it is true to say that black liquid gold has played a tremendous part in the affairs of the world, particularly in the under-developed nations. Having in mind the great power struggles among the oil cartels of the world in their efforts to seize and control markets and production points in oil producing countries, I have always been amazed that it has taken the great oil moguls so long to become interested in Australia. History reveals that in this continent, referred to as the most ancient in the world, indications of oil were found in the Northern Territory near Victoria River as far back as 1839. Roma, with its natural gas, was a reality in 1 900. I have recollections as far back as 1916 of oil being spoken about and later produced in the Woodside and Gippsland Lakes areas in Victoria. I was on the staff of Ampol Petroleum Ltd when that company, associated with the Caltex organisation, found oil at Rough Range, Exmouth Gulf, on 4th December 1953. This amalgamation was known later as West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd or Wapet. I think it is reasonable to say, in my vernacular, that the permit held by Ampol Petroleum Ltd was hawked all round the world in an effort to obtain the financial backing of one of the big international oil cartels so that Ampol could proceed with the search for oil in Western Australia.
Real interest was first taken in the prospect of finding oil in Australia as far back as 1946. The honourable member for Bennelong alleged that Australian companies do not have the know how or the technical skills to go out and search for oil. Credit must be given to Dr Harold Raggatt - later Sir Harold Raggatt - who was at that time Director of the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, for stimulating the enthusiasm and providing the inspiration for the search for oil in Western Australia and indeed right throughout Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– Well, the honourable member should not denigrate his own countrymen. He said we did not have the knowhow in Australia. Here was a man back in 1946 who displayed his knowledge. But what did the Government give to Dr Raggatt? It did not give him any encouragement at all. It was always Dr Raggatt’s opinion that oil was here in abundance. All we needed was the desire of the Government and other interested parties to seek for it. As I said, oil was found in Western Australia in 1953 after many trials and tribulations and it has been found in very big quantities since then. I have mentioned the lack of interest of the oil moguls. It is of interest to note that until 1924 there were no oil refineries in Australia. In that year Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd commenced refining operations at Laverton in Victoria, about 10 miles from my home.
The next upsurge in the search for oil followed the Rough Range and Moonie discoveries. Discoveries were made in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. The next phase in these great finds of petroleum products in Australia was the development of huge oil refineries throughout the country. The Vacuum refinery at Altona in Victoria and the Shell refinery at Corio in Victoria are examples of this tremendous development. Refineries were established also in Western Australia - at Kwinana - and in Queensland. In Victoria, following this great industrial search, came the huge industries to take care of the by-products, such as carbon black and the synthetic and plastics industries, about which I will say more later.
Another incident in the oil industry caused a tremendous change in marketing methods. I want to refer to it because it indicates the sort of people with whom we are dealing. The incident probably has been forgotten by many, but it is a small indication of what oil companies will do to suit their own purposes. I refer, of course, to the one brand marketing war in petrol that took place in 1951. It raged for some years afterwards, and is still proceeding. I can well remember urgent staff discussions that followed the announcement of the Shell Company of Australia Ltd to the effect that the company would shortly invite selected retailers to enter into contracts to sell Shell petrol and oil exclusively. The Vacuum and Caltex companies immediately followed suit to market exclusively in competition with Shell. The viciousness of the move was emphasised in the war that followed. Big sums changed hands to induce the resellers to change from multiple brand selling to one brand sites. The greater potential a site possessed the greater was the inducement offered by the major companies to the retailer to change to Shell, Vacuum or Caltex. Land and homes with ordinary current market price values soared to values beyond imagination as the three major companies competed to obtain sites to build additional stations. Corner sites brought astounding prices. Site buying, of course, was a move to force the private owner reseller out of business. On the oth-r hand, the one brand marketing move- was designed wholly and solely to enable the companies to hold their gallonage until they could bring the second phase of the scheme into effect - the buying of sites on which to establish company owned stations.
The other object of the scheme was to force the small companies, such as Ampol Petroleum Ltd, out of the market. This, they almost succeeded in doing. Shell, Vacuum and Caltex could speak in millions of dollars. The smaller companies could speak only in thousands of dollars. The excuse for the introduction of the one brand scheme was that it would enable the major companies and the resellers to work together to minimise rising costs and to give the best and most up to date service to the motorist. Today we see the effects of this move. The owner reseller site is noticeable by its absence and men running company owned stations work hard and for long hours to make a decent living. Competition is fierce and service stations are almost as numerous as fruit stalls in a city market. The price of petrol and oil and service continues to rise, in spite of the announcement by the Shell Company of Australia Ltd. But to the credit of the smaller companies it can be said that in the face of all the pressures, all the money and all the inducements that the major companies threw into this campaign, they managed to survive and now stand in Australia as big and as powerful as the moguls who tried to crush them.
The oil company that was the most harshly affected by the one brand war was Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd. This company was sold out by this Government to the British Petroleum Company. This sellout was disastrous to Australia. 1 think it would be fair comment to say that while the Federal Government had a 51% share in COR it at least had access to a measuring rod that could give the Government some indication of the activities of the oil industry. Taking into consideration the tremendous boom that has taken place in Australia due to the discovery of oil, it would be hard to estimate what would be the value of a 51% share of this nature today. It would be safe to say that the value of a 51% share in an oil company, would be colossal.
I have a good recollection of the 4 years after the end of hostilities in 1945 when the pool or quota system was still in existence. This system almost ended the small petroleum companies of that day. This, of course, was the very thing the major oil companies wanted. I have a good recollection of how hard the major companies fought to have the pool system retained. I should know the situation, because Parliament and Cabinet Ministers saw a good deal of me in those days. The major companies, having in mind the demand for petroleum products that would stem from the transition of industry from a wartime basis to a peacetime basis, were most anxious to keep this business for themselves. In other words, they would expand their quotas to meet peace petroleum requirements and would freeze the quotas of the small companies thus limiting their sales and retarding their growth with the object eventually of forcing them out of business. Suffice to say that the scheme of these international moguls almost succeeded.
The abolition of petrol rationing in February 1950 is past history. So, too, are the restrictions that were imposed, at the instigation of the major companies, on the sales of power kerosene, lighting kerosene and distillate that the smaller companies were marketing. This was another example of the efforts to get the small shows out of business as soon as possible. The almighty dollar was going to be severely hurt by the lifting of the pool system, according to the cries of the major companies. They were not worried about a dollar drain. The scheme they were interested in was an international one. Australia and the Australian public were to be the sufferers, and the small companies the sacrificial lambs. This was their attitude to Australia after the war when world authorities were saying that the world’s oil shortage was over, that there were no transportation problems, producing problems or refining problems, and that the oil industry had the capacity to meet world demands for the next 5 years at least. Despite this, Australia and the small companies were to suffer.
I know the background of the dollar free petrol skirmish and the strong attempt by the big American companies to stop cargoes of dollar free petrol coming to Australia. Dollar free petrol could have been secured in Poland, Russia, Romania, Germany and Italy, but when the introduction of French petrol was mooted so upset were the American interests in particular that Marshall aid to France was threatened to be cut off if cargoes of French petroleum were delivered to Australia, and the
Organisation for European Economic Cooperation was invoked. Suffice to say when the question of morals is referred to - and they have been referred to in this debate - even the oil companies in Australia have a few skeletons in the cupboard.
Let us look at another page in history. As we have a Suez Canal crisis today, so did we have one in December 1956. Herein lies the story of oil search in Australia. The former Prime Minister figured disastrously in the 1956 crisis. The Egyptian invasion took place in -January 1957 and the Canal was closed until June 1957. This incident was the first of a number of incidents that stirred the complacency of the great oil cartels which were operating in the Middle East. These incidents, and the Indonesian trouble, caused the oil monopolies, as a precautionary measure, to seek other pastures. Australia held the best prospects of exploitation, and so to Australia they came. What a lucrative pasture they have found. How easy has been their access to this pasture, whether the pasture has been on the land or under the sea. ‘Just sign your name, gentlemen, and we will call it a deal.’ AH I can say about it is that some people are born lucky.
One may ask why the oil cartels were not interested in searching for oil in Australia prior to 1953. The answer is obvious. In the first place oil in Australia was considered, by them, as a huge stockpile that could be tapped when needed. Secondly, whilst they could produce oil, load it, ship it and sell it in Australia at a better profit than they could obtain by producing oil in Australia, the oil cartels were not interested. In fact, so cheap was the production of oil in the Middle East that the underdeveloped and exploited country of Venezuela could not compete with the Middle East on the world market. From what has happened in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the countries in the Middle East we should take our lesson and drive the hardest bargain possible even if it takes months of negotiation and in spite of screams from Sir Henry Bolte.
Referring to the plunder of the South American countries, the ‘Times’ of London in 1957 had this to say:
These rich areas will continue to be the land of opportunity, but, ironically more for the foreigner than for the native.
The ‘Times’ of London could well describe the plunder of the natural resources of Australia - iron ore, bauxite and all those other precious minerals mentioned by the honourable member for Bennelong, and now oil, whether it be on land or under the sea - in this day and age, in much the same words as it used in reference to the countries of the Middle East and South America in 1957. Since then, is it not remarkable how intensely the seekers of oil have become interested in thirty or more sedimentary basins of Australia since that day in January 1957 when the Suez Canal was closed to traffic?
I do not intend to go into all the matters of exploration, taxation, subsidies, continental shelf and so forth. These matters have been traversed by other speakers. I want to refer to the statement made by the Premier of Victoria. He said that the points made by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) were rubbish. He stated in a newspaper article:
The Gas and Fuel Corporation, on their own account, made the agreement on price with BHP-Esso.
Under pressure from Sir Henry Bolte.
– He has pressured them to sign the agreement. The honourable member for McMillan knows this well and should be taking a very active interest in opposing this measure because it is going to put out of operation Yallourn and Morwell in the very near future. But the honourable member has no interest in that. The article went on to say:
Sir Henry said that if agreement had not been reached between the Federal and the six State governments it was almost certain that no company would take the risk of going ahead with big expenditure for exploration with an uncertain title.
What humbug. The attitude of the Government and the Premier of Victoria in relation to this natural gas offshore exploration and legislation would lead one to think that Esso and BHP were down to their last dollar and that: out of compassion the Government gave these struggling giants of foreign origin 750,000 square miles of what is probably the richest natural gas area in the world. ‘Look at the money these poor companies are investing in this project’, say the Government and Sir Henry Bolte. They say that it will take these companies a long time to get their money back.
Speaking of getting money back, let me refer to a report in the ‘Australian’ of last Friday. The article is headed: ‘Wapet May Pipe Gas South to Kwinana’. The article states: lt is understood that Wapet, which is now reaping profits from its Barrow Island oilfield, is seriously considering entering the natural gas business.
The company is studying the feasibility of constructing a pipeline to bring the natural gas found at Dongara and Yardarino south to Perth.
This would cost approximately $llm. Wapet would build the line itself and reap further profits from the natural gas. It is not many months ago since the Barrow Island field came into operation. After a short few months the company is reaping profits. Perhaps the most scandalous thing about Barrow Island is that tankers belonging to Mobil and other companies are going into Barrow Island, loading up with crude oil and taking it to Singapore where it is refined. These days we have Government speakers standing up and saying that we should have self-sufficiency in petroleum products. Yet this Government is allowing crude oil to be taken from Barrow Island to Singapore, being refined there and the refined product being sold not in Australia but outside Australia. There should not be a gallon or a pint of oil allowed outside this country when we and Government speakers are crying out for self-sufficiency.
– The honourable member is the only one.
– The honourable member’s brains would not blow his hat off if they were dynamite. I want to refer to the potential of the sedimentary basins which are considered by Dr Lewis G. Weeks as the most highly promising sedimentary basins u. the world. He advanced a very eloquent argument and thought very highly of Bass Strait. He is said to be potentially Australia’s first oil millionaire as he holds the rights to override royalty of 2i% of production from Bass Strait fields found under the Esso tenement. No wonder that the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay), in speaking about this matter some time ago when the present Prime Minister was Treasurer, used such words as ‘exciting prognosis’ when referring to the great discovery of oil in this country. On this very exciting prognosis people can become millionaires overnight.
I return to a statement made by the Chairman of the Victorian Pipelines Commission, Mr Ronalds. He said that EssoBHP would extract unwanted products from the gas. This is an amazing situation. Recently, while travelling back to Australia from London via Canada, I came through Calgary in Canada and I was told that the by-products were more valuable than the gas and far more profitable. In Australia we are screaming out for fertilisers. From this gas can be obtained nitrogenous fertilisers, petro chemicals, plastics and solvent for plastics. In fact, the by-product field is almost unlimited. Yet, these valuable commodities are literally being handed over on a silver platter to the great international oil cartels. No wonder the international cartels are becoming more and more interested in getting their share of the stockpile of petroleum and natural gas existing in this country since their domain in the Middle East countries is under constant threat. What is making them more and more interested too is the fact that a share in this stockpile can be obtained on better terms than those they have been able to obtain in the exploited areas where the generosity of the treatment that the oil cartels have received is not reflected in the living standards of the people in those countries.
The pattern which we lay down in this legislation here in this House will be the pattern for other great ventures in the future whether they be oil or natural gas. These commodities belong to the nation and not to the Premiers or the Prime Minister. In his Budget Speech of 1964 the Prime Minister, as Treasurer of this country, referred to oil and mineral discoveries and said:
We could move on from where we are now to an era of quite unprecedented expansion.
In this regard let us have a look at the extent of oil search in Australia. At the end of September 1964, 120 companies, mostly foreign owned, held petroleum tenements throughout Australia and the Territories. Since 1958 to the present date this Government has committed itself to $70m in subsidy payments. In this regard I think it is reasonable to ask: What has been the return for the outlay of $70m over 6 years? In consideration of this outlay, are the people of Australia going to receive oil or motor spirit at a cheaper rate? I think not. Who is going to determine prices of oil and petroleum in the future? Who is going to determine the ownership of these products? One is entitled to think that when an era of unprecedented expansion is spoken of, particularly as it refers to oil discovery, before any agreements were entered into the potential value to Australia of those discoveries would have been investigated. We might well have expected a national fuel policy to have been formulated. We might also well ask bow much this country has saved by the discovery of oil after having spent $70m in promoting the search for it. The protection and saving of public money should be the first duty of any government, but so far I have not heard or read anything that would provide an answer to the question I have just posed. Are all such questions to be pushed aside in the haste to place a signature on an agreement?
Is it any wonder that companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, the United States of America and Canada - some 120 or more of them - hold exploration permits over 2,500,000 square miles of off-shore sedimentary basins on the Australian continental shelf? Petroleum products represent one of the biggest items on Australia’s import bill. They make a very heavy demand on our foreign exchange. In order to ease the burden of our import bill, improve our balance of payments position and reduce our dependence on other countries, every endeavour should be made to make every gallon of oil and every therm of natural gas a revenue producer for this country. Oil interests have always treated their industry as being beyond the intrusion of governments or outsiders. They have always maintained that oil is for the oil industry alone. There is still plenty of room for bargaining about the wealth that oil production brings to a nation, but the bargaining must be taken up from a national angle. It should not be such as to make millions of dollars for international oil cartels or make millionaires of other individuals overnight.
For the reasons I have given and those that have been set out by other speakers on this side of the House I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
Debate (on motion by Mr Buchanan) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr
Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is one of a triology of Bills which are inter-related. The others are the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill which are also to come before the House. It will be most convenient and helpful to honourable members, I feel, if I provide in this speech the background to the three Bills and give an explanation of them as I go along.
Legislation in relation to the stevedoring industry is no new thing. The last major measure before the House was the 1965 Bill. It was introduced in abnormal circumstances. It might truly be said that it was because of the 1965 legislation that I am now able to place before the House these three present measures - which are in quite different vein. Honourable members will recall that shortly after the passage of the 1965 legislation the then Prime Minister, at the request of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, set up a National Stevedoring Industry Conference with the objective of achieving a long-term improvement in conditions in the stevedoring industry. Participants were the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the Waterside Workers Federation and my Department. We appointed Mr Woodward, Q.C., as Chairman and his role was described as being to attempt to secure agreement over the widest area. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Conference met pretty consistently through 1966 and into 1967 and that in April of this year the Conference produced a report which has since been widely published. lt is perhaps an understatement to say that something of a transformation has come over the industry since the 1965 legislation. From a situation where the industry was bedevilled with stoppages and disputes and general disharmony, there has been, for 2 years, unparalleled tranquillity. From a situation where the monthly average of man hours lost by industrial disputes was 117,000-1 refer to the 15-year period from January 1950 to September 1965 inclusive - over the 2-year period from October 1965, losses have averaged, in round terms, 5,000 man hours per month.
Beyond the most sanguine hopes of many, the National Conference produced agreement in principle over the whole range of matters before it, an agreement which, when given effect to, involves a far-reaching reorganisation of the industry.
The central feature of the arrangements for the re-organisation of the industry is a scheme for permanent employment on weekly hiring, to be introduced in the first instance in six major ports, namely, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Fremantle, and Port Kembla. These ports employ three-quarters of the total registered waterside workers and account for over fourfifth of the total man hours worked by waterside workers. I would not wish to suggest that the scheme of permanent employment is on all fours with that to be found in industry at large. The stevedoring industry has unique features about it which make impossible arrangements on a par with those found in industry at large.
In the stevedoring industry, the labour force in the permanent ports will be employed on a system of weekly hire. Some of the men will be employed directly by individual employers - the operational employers. The balance of the men will be employed by a holding company, whose members will be the registered stevedoring industry employers, and which will allocate its employees to operational employers as required. A second feature is a pensions scheme, applicable to waterside workers in the permanent and the continuous ports. A third, and quite vital, feature is the arrangements to deal with those waterside workers who will in the next few years become surplus to requirements.
I should, at this point, pause to give honourable members a little of the background against which this quite major change in the organisation of the industry needs to be considered. In the first place, the organisational framework which came out of the National Conference, and to which we are now giving effect, is fundamentally of the making of the employers and the Waterside Workers Federation. We have taken the view that, even if some other framework had merit, there were preponderating advantages in giving effect to a scheme of which the two parties principally involved were joint sponsors. In the second place, the Conference met over a period during which it became increasingly clear that the industry was in the grip of major changes. I refer to the progressive extension of bulk loading facilities and of roll-on rolloff ships. More significantly, extensive plans for containerisation and the greater use of unit load ships began to take more concrete form. All of these add up inevitably to a considerable reduction, over the next few years, in the number of waterside workers who will be required.
In short, the industry being faced with vast changes as a consequence of new technology, considerable adjustments in the labour arrangements had to be made if the industry was to accommodate itself to these changes. It is a matter of the greatest importance, and indeed satisfaction, that all concerned in the industry, and in the Conference, faced the situation realistically and were prepared to work out arrangements that would cope with the clearly emerging problems. This is the more noteworthy because this industry has had an inbuilt series of practices, generally directed to protecting the work force. And it is normally not a habit of men to cast aside habits and attitudes built up over a long period, however, much may be the logical justification for so doing. If we lived in a perfect world a better scheme might have been developed. But when account is taken of the considerations to which I have referred, I believe that the greatest credit is due to all who participated in the Conference and, particularly, Mr Woodward, the Chairman, for the outcome that was unanimously arrived at. If I may interpose at this point, I would like to say that over the years I have known Mr Woodward at the Victorian
Bar, at which he enjoys the utmost respect of his colleagues and, if I may add, my own friendship. More than that, not merely did the tone of the Conference discussions augur well for the future. There has been no diminution, in the period succeeding the publication of the Conference report, in the enthusiasm of the principal parties for the scheme worked out. As it is, there is every reason for hoping that what is planned will work out in such a way as to produce not merely an industry free from the industrial disputation that used to plague it, not merely an industry which will be far more efficient than has been the case, but an industry in which unit costs and total costs will in future be less than otherwise would have been the case.
This matter of the costs of stevedoring is of the greatest importance to our community. It is for this reason that the Government has been concerned that the changes being made will not add new costs without at the same time bringing compensating advantages. It is quite impossible to determine, at this present juncture, precisely how the scales of costs and benefits will finally tip. Tip, they will, in the right direction, but not immediately. The Government would not have given the conclusions of the Conference its general blessing if it had not considered that what was proposed offered the prospect of a much better, and a much more efficient, stevedoring industry. Some of the items agreed on in the National Conference will add to costs in the short term. We cannot introduce a pensions scheme - even a contributory pensions scheme - which does not add to labour costs. We cannot set up a fund from which benefits will be paid in due course to those who become redundant without meantime adding to labour costs. As the labour force is progressively reduced on an orderly basis - something that has been made possible by the agreement come to - in a matter of 4 or 5 years the total number of men employed in stevedoring operations must be fewer and the total labour costs in the industry cannot but be decidedly less than they are now. As well, in the scales must be weighed the advantages of less time lost in industrial disputes, of better throughput, of more efficient means of using the labour force, and so on, which should be the product of the new arrangements. Here is a typical case of the old adage that Rome was not built in a day. We cannot expect - and the Government does not expect - that there will be an immediate reduction in total costs, but what we confidently expect is that, putting aside changes in wages and the value of money, costs in the industry in 4 or 5 years time will be less than they are today and would be but for the arrangements which are now being introduced.
Remembering the character of the changes implicit in the new arrangements, and that we really do not know in detail what will be the precise impact of the technological changes now confronting this industry, we would be incautious to presume that we could, here and now, make fundamental changes in the structure of the existing Stevedoring Industry Act. Indeed, the time factor would not have permitted it, even had this been the proper course to take. Moreover, the parties to the Conference accepted, and so does the Government, that fundamental changes in the legislative structure should not be made before the new arrangements have been subjected to a trial over a period of 2 years or so and until it had been shown that the new arrangements were working satisfactorily. But, meantime, we have to face the fact that the proposed arrangements cannot be implemented under the legislation as it now stands. To meet this problem, we are adopting what, though an unusual course, is the only course open to us. We are doing this with the full knowledge of the parties concerned.
The main purpose of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Bill now before the House is to enable the new arrangements to be implemented per medium of regulations which the Bill authorises. The necessary provision appears in clause 8. The clause provides that regulations made under it will prevail over the Stevedoring Industry Act or regulations made under that Act. This is an unusual provision but it is not novel. Members of the Opposition who have been in this Parliament long enough will remember that in 1945 a similar provision was included in the Re-establishment and Employment Act introduced by the Labor Government of the day. I point to, and would emphasise, two things about the regulation making power.
In the first place, it is not an unlimited power; it is not open ended. Clause 8 sets out the subjects upon which regulations may be made. It is not a case of the regulation making power being at large. The regulations can be made only within the framework of clause 8. By and large, the regulations will have to relate to matters arising from changes in the organisation of the industry consequent upon the introduction of the new permanency arrangements or of the pensions scheme. The major object of regulations will be the arrangement to apply in permanent ports. Clause 6 of the Bill authorises the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) to declare ports to be permanent ports where the permanency arrangements agreed to at the Conference are operating. But, because of the pensions scheme, some adjustments of the present legislation will be needed in relation to the ports described in the Stevedoring Industry Act as continuous ports, Some consequential adjustments of the long service leave scheme, which applies to all waterside workers, will be needed also.
The second point about the regulation making power, and indeed about the whole Bill, is that its operation is limited. It will cease to have effect on 1st July 1970, and then any regulations that exist will cease to have effect unless some other provision is meantime made to deal with the matter. The date of 1st July 1970 has been fixed to allow the 2-year trial period that I have already mentioned. While it is expected that Sydney, and also Melbourne, will become permanent ports before the close of 1967, it will be well into the first 6 months of next year before the other four ports I named become permanent ports. Given that things work out as we hope, the intention of the Government is to bring down before 1st July 1970 legislation amending the Stevedoring Industry Act to make such changes as are necessary. Doubtless, in some instances, the amendments will be in keeping with the regulations that have been made meantime under this temporary provisions Bill.
The only other point calling for mention in relation to the temporary provisions Bill concerns clause 7, which authorises the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, subject to the direction of the Minister, to make certain payments to the holding com pany. These payments will be made from funds deriving from the charge imposed under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act, to which I will come in a moment. Attendance money will be a thing of the past under the permanent arrangements. However, and particularly while the labour strength is running down, there will be occasions when work will not be available to men under weekly hiring for a shift or part of a shift. The men concerned will not lose by this, because they will be on a weekly wage. As to the employer side, it is proposed that, where in current circumstances attendance money would have been paid, the employers concerned will be reimbursed for shifts when there is no work for their men. We have accepted also that the most sensible way of financing employers contributions to the pensions fund and providing a fund from which payments may be made when redundancy occurs, is to use the charge and so spread the obligation over all work done in the ports concerned.
Since I have raised the matter of the stevedoring industry charge, it is convenient to say a little more about it. The charge is provided for in the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill which also is before the House. From the proceeds of the charge, the Authority will go on financing its own operations and administration. Its functions will, to all intents and purposes, be unchanged as to other than permanent ports. In the permanent ports, the Authority will have some functions and it will make the payments to the holding company that I have referred to. In the continuous ports, the Authority will have its normal responsibilities, and will make some payments to the holding company. This leads me to a further point: Payments under the long service leave scheme will continue to be financed from the charge. The Authority will continue to administer the long service leave scheme. However, we have a bit of a problem with this scheme, in that to date the basis of financing it through the charge has been to provide no more funds than are necessary to meet the payments on account of long service leave taken on a year to year cash basis. Looking to the future and remembering the reductions in the work force ahead, the number of leave takings will be rather higher than in the past. Not only must funds for this purpose be provided; it would be quite unjust to make the industry as constituted at the time carry the burden of the leave payments that have to be made as they fall due. So it is proposed to convert the present financing arrangements from a cash outgoing basis to a basis where a fund will be built up to enable sufficient money to be available to pay all long service leave as and when it becomes due.
If honourable members turn to the Charge Bill they will notice that, in place of the common charge on a man hour basis that has been operative to date, for the future there are to be three separate rates of charge. In respect of what are described as class A waterside workers the rate of charge will be on a man week basis and be a sum not exceeding $17.55. In respect of what are called class B waterside workers the rate of charge will continue on the man hour basis and not exceed 80c. In respect of the remainder of the waterside workers - those described as class C waterside workers - the charge will not exceed 55c on a man hour basis. The Government has fixed the maxima rates on the best information it can assemble. Within the maxima it should be able to finance the expenditures that have 10 be met over the next 4 to 5 years. It will help my explanation if I say that class A waterside workers will be those employed on weeky hiring in permanent and continuous ports; class B waterside workers will be the other regular waterside workers in continuous ports; and class C waterside workers win be those employed in ports which are neither permanent nor continuous and irregulars in all ports. In respect of class A waterside workers the charge for the future will be levied on a man week basis. Since they will be on weekly hiring it is sensible, for accounting and other practical reasons, to levy the charge on a man week basis. Incidentally the sum that a charge of $17.55 would produce equals the sum that a 50c per man hour charge would produce. Also to be noticed is that the Charge Bill gives power to make regulations to fix the actual rates from time to time, under the ceiling rates I mentioned a moment ago. The Government has no wish to have the charge at a higher rate than is necessary or for a moment longer than necessary.
Now I outline the reasons for the differential charges for the future. To date, the one uniform charge has been 48c. If, at each port, the charge had been fixed at the rate required to cover all expenditure at or referable to the port, the range of rates would have been from 30c to 2 1 3c. In short the bigger ports have been subsidising the administration of the Stevedoring Industry Act in the other ports. Plainly, for the future, the Government could not continue with a uniform charge. In the first place in respect of class A waterside workers the employers will be carrying, from their own pockets, a fair slab of costs that have to date been borne by the Authority from the charge; for example, the costs of annual and sick leave and public holiday payments and of labour allocation. In round terms these costs might be put down at 20c. lt would be equally unfair to load on to the employment of waterside workers at ports, where the pension and redundancy arrangements will not apply, the amounts needed to finance those arrangements. To finance the employers’ contributions to the pension scheme and the redundancy fund will require the equivalent of a 15c charge per man hour for the first 5 years, reducing thereafter to approximately 7c. To build up the fund to meet commitments for long service leave will require 7c additional to the provision currently made. The conclusion the Government has come to is that the major ports should continue to contribute something to the costs of administration of the Act in the remaining ports. Looked at another way the maximum rate of charge at the smaller ports is only 7c higher than at present; that is, the amount needed to finance the long service leave fund. At the continuous ports the maximum rate of 80c will be 32c higher; 22c of this represents the pension, redundancy and long service leave items. The balance of 10c represents a further contribution towards the cost of administering the Stevedoring Industry Act in those ports. In fixing the 80c rate the Government had in mind also the importance of providing an incentive to employers to extend the permanency arrangements to further ports. In terms of cents per man hour the maximum rate for class A waterside workers at permanent ports is 10c less than that for class B waterside workers at continuous ports, when allowance is made for the functions employers will be performing in respect of class A waterside workers instead of the Authority.
I must not pass from this subject without reminding the House that in 4 or 5 years, when the pensions and long service leave funds have been built up, the industry can look forward to the charge operating at the permanent and continuous ports being reduced by some 14c and at the smaller ports by some 7c.
I wish to make one last point: At the present time the charge is not levied on any waterside workers employed on weekly hiring. The Government introduced this exemption in 1961, because then the employers concerned were only to a very minor degree using the services of the Authority and were not receiving any payments from it in respect of their weekly hired employees. For the future the situation will, as I have explained, be very different as regards weekly based employees in the permanent and continuous ports. So the Government is cancelling the exemption in respect of weekly hired employees in those ports. This is dealt with in the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill. The present exemption will continue in respect of weekly hired employees in the other ports because the reasons that justified the introduction of the exemption continue to operate. Mr Speaker, for years permament employment in the stevedoring industry has been advocated by many. Perhaps some have attributed to the idea of direct employer-employee relationships in this industry something of a touch of magic, which the circumstances do not justify. But I do not think anyone would contest the point of view that direct relationships should lead to an improvement in not merely the human, but also the industrial relations of this industry. While plans are well advanced to change over to permanent employment in six ports, the Government is hoping that the plans work out with such success as to lead to other ports becoming permanent ports. lust what comes out of the new arrangements will depend heavily on how the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the managements of the individual operational companies and the holding company discharge their responsibilities. Over the years many criti cal things have been said about the management side of this industry. The customary response has been that, because of the presence of the Authority and the general character of the legislation, management has been unable to function as employers normally do. From now, on, at least in the permanent ports, this will not be the case. Technological development is forcing vast changes on this industry. Those changes must be matched by management that will not merely cope with technological problems but direct itself assiduously to making this industry a highly efficient industry in every respect. The stevedoring industry is critical in our Australian economy. It is critical because so many of our costs stem from transport and because the profitability of many of our markets and potential markets depends heavily upon the level of transport costs.
On the Federation front, I discern a new attitude. I would not for a moment imagine it was universally held, but there is plainly abroad, at long last, the realisation that the interests of the Federation’s members can be advanced best by putting co-operation to the forefront in the resolving of the industry’s problems. It is my earnest hope that this will be the guiding principle for the future. If the employers and the Federation both bring to their responsibilities a conviction that their respective interests in the industry are matched by obligations to the community at large, we will be well on the way to a stevedoring industry which is both efficient and notable for sensible human and industrial relations.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move:
I have already covered the provisions of this Bill in my earlier speech.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Minister for
Immigration) [10.51] - I move:
Basically this is a machinery Bill that stems from the changes made by the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill (No. 2) 1967. I have already referred in my earlier speech to the principal changes made in this Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Dr Forbes, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate additional grants to meet the Commonwealth’s contribution to the increased costs at universities of the higher levels of academic salaries which the Government said that it was prepared to support from 1st July 1967. The Bill amends the specific salaries which are now set out in the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act for the purposes of financial assistance in connection with the universities. The new levels of salary which are to be paid and which will be supported by the Commonwealth are:
The estimates of cost also include the Commonwealth’s share of consequential increases resulting from these higher salaries. For example, the salaries of fulltime tutors and demonstrators will be in creased consistently with the other academic salary increases.
The only other change made by the Bill, following a request by Macquarie University and the Government of New South Wales, is to provide for an additional amountofCommonwealthassistancein 1967 for Macquarie University of $81,000, subject of course to the availability of an additional amount from fees and State contributions. Consequential reductions are made by the Bill for 1968 and 1969 totalling the same amount and there is therefore no variation in the total grant for the triennium. The need for this adjustment, which has been recommended by the Australian Universities Commission, followed a review by the University of its spread of expenditure over the whole triennium.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connor) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 2465).
– It is a little unfortunate that this debate was interrupted because we were engaged in a discussion on something that is of very great importance to this country. Certain things said by the Opposition should have been replied to straight away while people have them in their minds. I do not think it is right that the debate should have been adjourned in this manner and that we should then return to it in this unconnected way. Suffice is to say that the Opposition has approached this legislation from such an archaic viewpoint that I find it very hard to understand what it is really trying to do. Obviously it is trying to stop anybody finding oil in this country. It is impossible to conceive of anybody wanting to come to Australia to explore for oil and to devote all the time and money that are required to search for this very elusive product, under the sort of conditions which it is apparent would apply if we were so unfortunate as to have the Labor Party controlling the affairs of this country. Everybody would simply be driven out.
– How much have they spent?
– They have spent over $400m already in the search for oil offshore. That is a lot of money. It is unfortunate that we have an Opposition that approaches something of this importance in this way because the discovery of oil is one of the greatest things that have happened to Australia for many years. Oil was said to be the last of the essentials that Australia had to find to be self-supporting. I think we are just about right now. We started off as primary producers. We have developed our manufacturing processes and we have made important mineral discoveries. Oil production is the last essential to round off the luckiest country in the world. We are most fortunate people to have these resources available for development. Yet here we have an Opposition which if it had its way would prevent that development.
– Why did you sell the oil?
– I do not want to waste my time on members of the Opposition. Their attitude is unfortunate and that is all there is to it. One of the objectives of this legislation is to avoid a lot of litigation. Much has been said about the necessity to learn from the mistakes of other countries. Under this legislation we will be giving certainty of legal title to the people who have spent their money developing this asset.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) mentioned the fact that a lot of our oil development is by overseas interests and that it has been necessary for us to go to some of our friends in other countries for the finance and the know-how. I remind the House that in practically every case the original offshore tenement has been held by an Australian company which has not had the necessary finance or the knowhow and which has been very glad to turn to people who do have the finance and the know-how. Although the foreign investors are hopeful that one day in the distant future they will be able to take some money back home to their shareholders, in all this time Australia will be making very great profits out of the money invested. For the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) to make the extravagant statement that $ 1,000m is being thrown to overseas companies indicates that he has not looked carefully into the economics of the industry. His claim does not take into account the fact that these companies will spend $150m one one little hole in Bass Strait. True it has oil in it, but it cannot, be compared with the oilfields in the Middle East, which are ten or twenty times as big as the field in Bass Strait. The Bass Strait field is not a great bonanza. But it will be extremely, valuable to Australia because it is the first time we have had any real indication of development of an oil industry.
We must look at the conditions that have been offered to people who come here to develop our oil potential. If you have a very rich oil area, as you have in parts of the North American continent, and all you have to do is put down a hole and you get oil in the bottom of it, you are given a small graticular block. This is sufficient to give you a living because you have a market handy. But in Australia you must first find your oil. Then you must enter into negotiations over many years with governments. Then you must get to work and bring your discovery into production. Then you work to get your money pack and you begin to make some profits. In the meantime Australia has been receiving the benefit of your discovery.
What I have said does not mean that 1 think we have tackled this matter of oil search in the way we might have tackled it. The industry that has come from overseas and established itself in this country is entitled to consider itself part of this country. When you deal with these people who have come from America or Canada, as we have been over the last few years, you find that their interests are becoming Australian. They begin to get an Australian outlook. They are not really concerned with sending dividends back to their shareholders overseas. They are more concerned with developing this asset in Australia and making a contribution to Australia’s development. In order to bring these discoveries of oil into production we must provide suitable conditions. In November 1965 we had the first announcement that agreement had been reached by the States and the Commonwealth on a code under which we could work. It has taken almost 2 years to work out the details. One could deal with the agreement item by item. Perhaps the leases are a bit big. On the matter of tenure of lease, it may be better to prescribe 40 years, as is done in most other countries, instead of 21 years. The royalty has been worked out on a most peculiar basis. I do not have time tonight to express myself properly on the matter of royalty. It has been based on a most extraordinary system which no other country has attempted to put into operation. We say that a company may explore. When it finds some structures that appear promising we give it a permit to drill. Provided it finds oil we will give it a licence to produce.
Somebody went overseas and saw somewhere the graticular system in operation. He thought this was a good idea, and he came back to Australia and applied it to Australian conditions. In one way he did us a service because it is rather difficult to define boundaries under water. You have no landmarks, so yon have to work from some graticular system. This is a good way of defining boundaries of leases. Take the case of a company that has discovered oil and has been given a permit to produce. It is allowed nine Meeks in the graticular system as a production area. The company is then told that it will be allowed to keep five of those blocks and must surrender four. Originally it was proposed that four should be kept and five should be surrendered. The Slates jumped on this idea as fast as they could. They could see in it a bonanza because the four blocks surrendered could become valuable property. The States felt that they would be able to force the pace and get high bids for this valuable asset that somebody else had spent money to find. For a long time this matter was bandied around.
Many people will know that I have had something to say on the rights and wrongs of this matter. I felt that the proposition was wrong and it seems that my views were reasonable because when we did make a discovery in the Bass Strait it was not long before somebody explained the situation in the right quarter and got his arguments home. So another idea was conceived, namely to have an override of royalty. Somehow the override came to be 1% to 2i%. Whoever heard of anything so silly? Who will take 1% if he can get 2i%? State governments have the right to say what the figure will be and I do not think it will ever again be 1%. From now on it will be 2i%. But suppose there is oil in the four blocks that a company has surrendered. If it wants that oil it has to pay an extra 1% to 2i% on the whole structure in order to preserve its rights to that little bit of oil. It might pay the company to give up the extra oil and bid for it, but there are certain reasons why this may present difficulties. The company might know that there is a certain amount of oil in the block next to its holding but if the information is made known to other people - it could be the designated authority, the Minister or anybody else - it makes a great difference to the value of that oil.
There are several of these terms through the Bill which we could discuss and argue about, but by and large I think the industry could learn to live with the measure. I should like the House to take into consideration, particularly in thinking about this system which has been imposed on the industry, that it is a most unfair basis to work on. Certainly the squares are useful, but as one of my American friends has said to me quite often: The good Lord did not know when he put the oil down there underneath the surface in the structure that some man was going to come along at some time later and divide it into a geometric design that had nothing to do with the ordinary formation that the oil was in.’ It just does not make sense to do this. There is only one rule in the mining world and that is to go out and search, find, spend the money and, if one believes he has discovered something, then peg out the area which he believes he has discovered. In the case of oil he has the right to that particular structure and to the oil that is under it - not a right to just some of it.
I should like to deal with just a couple of items in the Bill. As I have said, there is much of it that we could discuss at some length, but there are three clauses which I find unacceptable. They are clauses 35, 58 and 115. Clause 35 deals with something which may not be thought to be terribly contentious. It deals with the right of a Minister or the designated authority to tell the company concerned just what it is required to do in order to determine the chemical composition and physical properties of petroleum and to determine the quantity of petroleum in the area in which it is found. I find it unacceptable that the authority may direct the permitee to do this. It is within the power of the authority simply to direct. There is no discretion, there is no point of argument and there is no basis on which the company concerned can turn to someone and ask for some adjudication. I suggest that in this clause it would be simple to insert in the right place - I shall suggest this when we are in the Committee stage - the words ‘provided this is based on sound technical and economic practices’. They are simple words which do not mean much, but they would make a lot of difference to the bargaining power of the people concerned and would enable them to get the most of the discovery on which they have spent a considerable sum of money.
Clause 58 has a similar disability, if 1 may term it that, dealing with the rate of production. The designated authority may order the licensee to increase or reduce the rate and he can tell him in what way he is to increase or reduce the rate. This is an interference with management which should not be tolerated. Although I will probably be told that there is no possibility of any Minister for Mines or other responsible person doing anything that is not based on sound technical and economic practices, there is just some possibility that perhaps those who now occupy the Opposition benches may be in power in which case things might be different.
– In what way?
– -Different people in charge have different ways of doing things. At present we can see no reason why there should be any possibility of somebody ordering an uneconomic practice, but it could happen. If we put into clause 58 the words ‘provided this is based on sound technical and economic practices’ there would be a point of bargaining between the Minister or the designated authority and the licensee. The designated authority, of course, is not necessarily a Minister; he can be any person nominated. If this point of bargaining were provided it would be possible to prevent damage being done if, in the opinion of the licensee, the rate of recovery of petroleum from afield would cause damage to the field which he had gone to much trouble to find.
The situation under clause 115 is even worse than is the position in the other two clauses to which I have referred. In this case an inspector - these are very important words - who has reason to believe that a person is capable of giving information or producing documents relating to petroleum exploration operations may require that person to furnish any such information in writing. The inspector can require that person to attend before him. I remind honourable members that in this case it is either the designated authority or an inspector. The person required to attend may be called upon to answer questions and produce such documents as are required, and under the next clause that person may be put on oath. So here we have the situation in which a designated authority or an inspector can demand any information that he thinks has some bearing on the operation of the area which is adjacent to a particular State. This provision goes a long way beyond the normal requirements as practised now and, T might add, as practised in all major oil producing countries. The only exception that I can find is Cuba.
No-one has any objection to a requirement that information be provided, whether it is of a geological or a geophysical nature, whether it relates to tests, drawings, diagrams, seismic charts, logs, drilling data or any of the paraphernalia associated with the mechanics of going about the business of finding suitable structures and the drilling that is done to test those structures. No-one has any objection to making this sort of information available. However, I remind the House that subsidy has sometimes been refused because on the basis of the known geological information, which has been supplied by the permitee, the Minister does not believe that drilling would provide more valuable information. But the refusal of a subsidy does not prevent the company from going on if it has ideas about what might lie beneath a particular structure. The company may have secrets or techniques gained at great cost from work in other parts of the world. The company may have discovered these things by good fortune, but still they belong to the company which will not share them with anyone. A company may not be prepared to put itself in jeopardy by revealing these secrets to some Government office where, by some misfortune which would be very sad but is just possible, one of its competitors might learn these techniques. The companies regard these methods as propriety techniques, their stock in trade or, one might almost say, their tools of trade.
I think there must be a limit to the extent to which a company may be compelled to disclose its knowledge or the conclusions it has reached. I hesitate to say this, but it has been suggested to me seriously that some Departments of Mines would be lost if they were given only working drawings, charts, bare arithmetic and graphs. I thought they had geologists and geophysicists who would be able to interpret the document for them, but it seems that they require the interpretations to be given with the documents. They need an elaboration before they can assess the situation. It seems to me that there must be a limit on what can be done.
It seems that an inspector may have the right to demand the conclusions that have been reached. A company may go to a lot of trouble to reach a conclusion. It may have done the seismic work, the drilling and so on and decided that there is no oil in the area. This information is made available to the State and Federal departments. But it is also sent back to the headquarters of the company in America or Canada, or wherever it may be, and the experts there will look at it. With their special techniques they may be able to say: ‘We think there is some possibility of oil here’. The organisation in Australia is then asked to continue trying. This legislation gives the designated authority the right to demand this information, though it is private and secret. There must be some limitation on the extent to which the Government can go. I do not suggest that the Minister has some desire to penetrate the inner thoughts of management and I do not think there is any desire on the part of management to deny the Minister access to a fair and reasonable knowledge. I also realise that it would be difficult to put into legislative form any hard and fast rules that this information will be given and that information will not be given.
As I said when I referred to clauses 35 and 58, some bargaining point is needed. The legislation as it stands gives the Minister or the designated authority the right io demand information. They can put company officers on oath and make them produce material which is of vital importance to them. I suggest most strongly that management is entitled to preserve the right not to divulge its conclusions. Management may be willing to divulge reports and perhaps interpretations, but management should not be asked to divulge its conclusions. That is why I suggest that an amendment is needed. I have been assured by one departmental head that, once the information goes into the office, it will be confidential, but the department wants it. Clause 118 provides that information will not be disclosed to anyone else. At the appropriate time during the committee stage, I propose to move that the words contained in clause 118 be included also in the earlier clauses. The words are: . . but not including any matter . . . that in the opinion of the Designated Authority or Minister, is a conclusion drawn … or an opinion based … on any such information.
These words included in the earlier provision would give a company the right to question how far the Government can go. They would take away the dictatorial right that is at present marring a very good piece of legislation.
– I am very pleased to be able to take part in this debate. I regret that I was not able to speak in the debate on VIP aircraft. 1 thought that I would be speaking at 8 o’clock and I told my friend, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan), that I would be doing so. He took that as gospel and that is how he missed the division at 6.30 p.m. I missed it, too. I understood from the Party Whip that I would be speaking. I want to take this opportunity to point out to the House that that is how the two of us missed the division at 6.30 p.m.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). He said that some $400m had been spent on the search for oil in the offshore area. I think he has his figures a little mixed. I think the $400 is for drilling in the whole of Australia, including the offshore areas, and for drilling in Papua and New Guinea. That is the way I understand it. I have nothing before me, but from memory I think that is the amount that has -been spent. The Minister for National Development (Mi Fairbairn) is to be congratulated on introducing such a big Bill as this and continuing to supervise it. It is a Bill of considerable magnitude, but there are parts of it that I do not understand and, T think, that many people do not understand. It will be up to the Minister to make the position clear to the House. I will mention some parts that are not clear to me as I go through my speech.
Some honourable members have referred to a wealthy company such as Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd being interested in offshore drilling and having such a big hold over natural gas, especially in association with the Esso organisation. I am very glad that BHP is in this venture, because it is purely an Australian company. I wish there were more such companies in Australia. Its management is entirely Australian. The company refuses to engage anyone except Australians. It sends its young executives overseas for experience and when they return to Australia they are placed in high positions. The company has done a lot of research in many parts of Australia. We find it at Groote Eylandt, Cooktown, Broken Hill and in Western Australia, as well as in many other parts of Australia. The most creditable feature is that this is an Australian company. I am not anti anyone in this world, but we should be realistic when we look at these ventures and we should not forget what has happened in other parts of the world. Surges of nationalism occur in all countries and I think that nationalism is very strong in Australia. Britain poured vast sums of money into the Middle East, especially into the Persian Gulf and into Iran, as it is called now. There was a time when Churchill found it necessary to encourage the search for oil in those areas. He needed oil for the British fleet. But when oil was found and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. was formed, the Government had 51% of the capital and private enterprise had 49%.
I am afraid that, if oil is found in Australia as a result of the grants made by the Government, control of the discoveries will not be in the hands of companies such as BHP but would be in the hands of companies that are not incorporated in Australia. In the book ‘The Law of the Sea’ by D. W. Bowett - and I would advise as many people as possible to read it - it is pointed out that the British Government, when it granted leases in the North Sea made it a condition that the person applying for the lease, had to be a citizen of the United Kingdom and that the company had to be incorporated in the United Kingdom. I do not know whether the people who are to be granted permits, or who will be granted permits, will be obliged to be incorporated in Australia. I hope that is a requirement. Earlier I referred to nationalisation. In most countries of the Middle East private ownership of the oil wells lasted about 40 years. It lasted about the same time in Indonesia and Mexico. Then the people rose up and said: ‘These wells belong to us and we want them.’ What is more, they got them. I do not want to see anything like that happen in Australia in the next 40 years or even, in these modern times, in the next 20 years. However, when companies get a sole right this is always a possibility. We should examine these points and emphasise them from the outset. We could get into this Parliament men who will say: ‘We do not believe in this sort of thing.’ I am not going to debate this possibility now, but overnight people who have sunk millions into these projects could lose everything. This is an aspect that needs a lot of thought.
In one. respect the Bill seems to be throwing away federal rights. From my reading of “The. Law of the Sea’ it seems that territorial seas at present are those seas which lie 3 miles off the coast. This week we will debate a Bill which tries - and I hope it succeeds - to increase, for fishing rights, the territorial seas to 12 miles off the coast. It is not certain that we will be able to do this. I feel that some countries will challenge this proposal in the International Court. However, it is generally understood that the territorial sea is that area which lies 3 miles off the coast. Therefore around Australia we can say that for 3 miles off the Victorian coast they are Victorian waters; for 3 miles off the New South Wales coast they are New South Wales waters; for 3 miles off the Queensland coast they are Queensland waters; for 3 miles off the Western Australian coast they are Western Australian waters, and so on. Beyond the 3 mile limit at present is the high seas. As far as I know, no State controls the high seas. We have the right under international law to exercise control over the continental shelf.
The Bills we are now considering are in accord with international law, because in the Agreement associated with this Bill we read:
Whereas in accordance wilh international law Australia as a coastal state has sovereign rights over the continental shelf beyond the limits of Australian territorial waters for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources;
It is clear from this wording that we are concerned with areas beyond the territorial waters. Members of this Parliament are federally minded. It has been decided that there shall be one navy to look after the whole of Australia. We have decided, with the States, that up to 3 miles offshore are State waters and beyond that are the high seas and that the Federal Government will look after the high seas. However, this Bill does not accord with that understanding because it gives the States the right to allocate leases beyond the present 3 mile limit. I think that is the right of the Commonwealth Government. I am not an international lawyer or a constitutional lawyer. But I can see these things and I try to puzzle them out from my reading.
The chart on page 17 of the Agreement shows the area in respect of which Victoria will issue leases. It is beyond my comprehension. I do not know who drew up the chart or why it was drawn in the manner it is drawn, but it shows the area to be the responsibility of the Victoria Government as protruding for about 400 miles off Cape Howe - to latitude 41 degrees 30 minutes South and 158 degrees 13 minutes east longitude - as extending in a westerly direction for about 180 miles into South Australia and as having its southernmost point some 40 miles south of the southern extremity of Tasmania. I cannot understand how it can be decided that the issuing of permits in respect of this area should be the responsibility of the Victorian Government. I should have thought that the proper thing would be to say: ‘We are going to increase our territorial sea from 3 miles to 12 miles. All wells or all exploration within the 12 mile limit will be the responsibility of the State and as far as the Commonwealth Parliament is concerned the State may have the sole rights to royalties in respect of wells that are discovered in that area, but beyond that area on the continental shelf and upon the high seas it will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth.’ We do not say to the States: You can go and explore in the Northern Territory’. We say, when it comes to dry land exploration: ‘You stick to your own State’. As I see it, from where the territorial sea ends, whether it is 3 miles or 12 miles to the end of the continental shelf it is Australian open high seas which come under Commonwealth control.
So that the House may understand what is meant by the continental shelf I might explain, without going into the full definition, that it is that area that extends to where the 100 fathom mark begins. With other countries we signed an international agreement in Geneva . in 1958 in which the countries concerned acknowledged each others rights in the super-adjacent areas. I think that ‘super-adjacent’ means areas lying under’ where there is no great depth and which become the property and right of the country concerned. 1 find that some States are far better off than other States in regard to the continental shelf. I want to look at this not. as a Victorian but as a Federal member of this House. I believe that the State of New South Wales is badly treated as far as the continental shelf is concerned.
The other weekend I took the’ trouble to measure the distance from the principal points in Australia to the points where the continental shelf ends. I am indebted to the Minister for supplying me with a splendid chart which his department has just completed. It is chart NMP/65/139. I think it is one of the finest charts I have seen because it not only shows all the main points in Australia but also what the seas around Australia look like. In addition, it shows very clearly the continental shelf and the 200 metre mark or the 100 fathom mark. I would like to mention a few of the points I noted so that they can be incorporated in Hansard. If I read the measurements honourable members can see how the States are treated. The continental shelf off Cape York lies 100 miles to the east, off Cairns 60 miles east, off Townsville 150 miles, off Bowen 180, off Mackay 290, off Kepple Bay 310 to 270 miles, off Gladstone 210, off Bundaberg 110 and off Brisbane 60. Stradbroke Island is 30 miles off the coast. This is important. Whereas the continental shelf started at 100 miles off Cape York, and was 290 miles off Mackay, at Stradbroke Island, near the border of Queensland and New South Wales, it is 30 miles. The continental shelf is 25 miles off Byron Bay, 30 miles off Coffs Harbour, 25 miles off Port Macquarie, 45 miles off Forster and 45 miles off Port Stephens. It then continues down to Jervis Bay where it is 15 miles off the coast. At Ulladulla it is 18 miles. It is 30 miles off Bateman’s Bay and 15 mites off Narooma.
Al the border of Victoria and New South Wales the continental shelf is 20 miles off Cape Howe. The distance increases off Victoria because there is a great distance between Victoria and Tasmania. This distance is about 190 miles. The area on the chart showing the continental goes out into irregular distances so that the area of the continental shelf off Victoria is greater than it. is off New South Wales. The same thing applies in South Australia where the continental shelf extends out from the Bight. At the border between Western Australia and South Australia at a place called Wilsons Bluff the continental shelf extends for 120 miles. At Esperance Bay it is 60 miles. It is 38 miles at Albany, 35 miles at Cape Leeuwin and so on around the coast. At Port Hedland the continental shelf extends 150 miles north west of the coast and it is 190 miles off Yampi Island. Further out, where the Burmah Oil Co. is drilling at Cartier Reef, the continental shelf is 240 miles off the Western Australian coast.
For Commonwealth purposes, Ashmore and Cartier Reefs, which are adjacent to each other, are classed as belonging to the Northern Territory for oil search purposes. I can understand this because just south of these areas is another reef called Scott Reef. I suppose it is all right to talk about these things now because the war has been over for 20-odd years, but it was thought at one time that that area would help towards the protection of Australia. Scott Reef was to be a secret base where three fleets could safely lie at anchor. Just adjacent to Scott Reef, of course, is an area of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Reef where the Burmah Oil Co. is drilling. I hope that this company finds oil there. I think that this would be a good thing. However, is this company incorporated in Australia? This is the main thing. What’ is going to happen if this company finds oil? This area is 60 miles away from the coast of Timor and 240 miles away from the coast of Australia. What are the people going to say if they discover oil there? They may say: Look, we are so far away from Fremantle that we do nol’ want to send our oil down to Australia. Although this oil has been found in Australian territory it is cheaper for us to take it to Singapore’. If this happened Australia would get no benefit whatsoever. lt is a remarkable thing that no matter where oil is discovered on Australian territory - whether it be in Bass Strait, off Tasmania, or on the Ashmore Reef - while that oil is lying in the ground it is dinki-die Australian. However, as soon as a pipe is put down and the oil comes to the surface it can change its nationality depending on who is searching for it. That is why I say that there should be greater equity in these ventures so that, as I have pointed out, in the years to come people with a surge of nationalism will not then say: ‘This is ours and we want the lot’. This will not happen if we have a controlling interest in these things. That would be a good thing for Australia and a good thing for defence purposes. I think that areas such as Ashmore Reef, Scott Reef and Cartier Reef are looked at for purposes other than oil exploration. We have to be careful when looking for places for aircraft to land should they be travelling from Saigon to Australia that we do not throw these areas away because some company has gone up there with a permit from Australia to search for oil. When this happens it is too late to build something for other purposes. I turn to the discovery of oil in what could be termed as Victorian waters. What is going to happen, for instance, in the case of Halibut Well, which is 42 miles off the coast, concerning the problem of pollution? There is nothing in the Bill to cover this. From what I can see in regard to countries where offshore oil drilling is taking place, pollution presents a continuous worry, especially for local government. Once oil is found you cannot stop oil spills into the sea. Who is going to look after this problem? Who is going to police it? Are the Commonwealth authorities going to look after it? I believe that this should be a Commonwealth matter because the drilling takes place on the high seas. Are we going to give authority back to the States and let them have their own patrol forces. We got away from this when we wound up the colonial navies and started our own for this sort of thing. However, by allowing the States to issue permits on the high seas and on the continental shelf, I believe we are giving away our Federal rights. I think something will have to be done about pollution.
It has been said that the interests of our Territories were to be safeguarded. We said that Nauru was to be covered and we said that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was also to be covered. But it is very interesting to look at the boundary between Papua and Australia and to notice that the Queensland border in parts runs practically along the Papuan coast. If oil is found in that area there will need to be some understanding with the Papuans.
I would have liked the Minister to bring within the provisions of this Bill the areas off. the coast of Antarctica. I do not know whether there is oil there or not. I do not know whether there is oil off the New South Wales coast. I think there is less likelihood of finding oil off the New South Wales coast than off the coast of other States because the continental shelf along the New South Wales coast is so narrow. But I do think, as a federalist, that in drawing up the boundaries as we have done we have not been exactly fair to New South Wales. It is not our purpose in this Parliament to look after the interests of our own particular States but to look after the interests of Australia as a whole.
I hope the Minister will consider the position of Antarctica and make arrangements for legislation to cover that area before somebody else steps in and starts drilling there. I thought that some drilling was being done down there but evidently I am wrong. I understand that drilling is being carried out off the coast of Alaska. If people can drill in Arctic waters there is nothing to stop them drilling in Antarctica, and it is well to remember that Australia is responsible for some 25% of all the land in Antarctica, so that there would be quite an area of continental shelf coming under Australia’s jurisdiction.
I know that the Minister has given a lot of time and thought to this legislation. There is not much we can do at this stage because the main talking has been done already. The Government has conferred with the States and the States have agreed as to what they want. Victoria has agreed to these boundaries. I do not agree with the boundaries that have been established, but evidently New South Wales has agreed to them. The South Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government, which are Labor governments, have also agreed to the boundaries. Why I do not know, but 1 do not want to get mixed up in that matter. That is the business of the governments concerned. But looking at it from a federal point of view I think the whole thing is wrong. I believe this Bill should have been debated first in this House and we should have decided whether we wanted the Minister to approach the States and discuss the matter and then come back here to discuss in this House. The matter has been dealt with in the reverse fashion. It is now cut and dried, the agreements have been drawn up, and no matter how long we debate it in this House we cannot bring about any change. I hope that when the Minister replies he will give some attention to the points I have raised, i hope he will tell us why the States and not the Commonwealth have control over the area between the territorial limit and the edge of the continental shelf. I will be very pleased to hear what he has to say on matters such as that.
– lt is not my intention to waste time at this hour repeating arguments which have been advanced very effectively by other speakers. But I would like to inject some realism into the debate to offset the hysteria which has been introduced by some Opposition speakers. The Opposition is opposing this legislation on the ground that it represents a sell-out of Australia’s assets. I believe that nothing is further from the truth. I want to refer to the speeches of two leading speakers for the Opposition, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor). The honourable member for Wilmot said that he had sold our birthright. He said that oil and gas resources are God-given, not manmade. That is true, but God did not put the oil in tanks or in pipelines. He left it under the sea and, in my opinion, it would still be under the sea if it were not for private enterprise and foreign capital. I remember hearing a Bible story about three talents. One man buried his talent and did nothing with it, and from what I remember he did not rate too highly in the eyes of the Lord for leaving it under the ground. If Labor policy had been followed our oil and gas would still be under the ground.
During the coarse of his speech the honourable member for Wilmot, referring to the agreement which has been signed by the various State Premiers, said:
Mr Fagan, the Tasmanian Attorney General, signed it under absolute duress, and so did Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia. If they had not signed it, of course, there would not have been an Agreement, so they signed it to get the little bit of cake that will come to them in the next hundred years or so rather than get no cake at all. That was absolutely outrageous.
He went on to say that they were Labor men and were trapped into signing this wretched agreement under duress. But that does not tally with what the honourable member for Cunningham said when opening the debate for the Opposition on Thursday 26th October. He said:
Faced with the bitter criticism of South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland and calculating upon their ultimate acceptance of half a loaf instead of none, the Commonwealth Government bought their ultimate approval by agreeing to take only a 4% royalty. The residual 7%, being the remainder of toe 10% general and 1% overriding royalty, was the sop to the States whose needs and greed gol the better of their good sense and judgment.
The honourable member for Wilmot, referring to an article which appeared in the Canberra Times on 6th January 1967 headed Walsh attacks Bolte over oil, gas’ had this to say:
This Agreement -
He was referring to the first agreement which was drawn up - involved the sharing of royalties on a SO-SO basis in all offshore areas, including territorial waters.
He went on to say:
The Commonwealth walked out on that agreement, prepared another one and had the nerve and audacity to get the six States to sign it. I do not know what the Commonwealth promised the six States.
The honourable member for Cunningham knows what the Commowealth promised the six Slates because he told us that the Commonwealth promised the States 7/ 11 ehs of the royalties instead of 5/10ths, and, as he has said, the greed of the States got the better of their judgment. I point out that the was referring to the Labor-governed States.
Let me deal with one or two statements made by the honourable member for Cunningham. He referred to ‘back door negotiations and manoeuvres and the skulduggery of the Victorian Government with the connivance of the Prime Minister*. I think those are shocking accusations, and he should be ashamed of himself for making them in the Parliament. In a bitter attack on Sir Henry Bolte he imputed to him motives of State rivalry and State jealousy. He used such phrases as ‘seeking to deliver a mortal blow at New South Wales industries’. Referring to a statement made by Sir Henry he said: This discloses his real motives, to deny to New South Wales any industrial advantage it might gain by getting such a supply. He was referring then to gas. Later he said that Sir Henry sought ‘to put New South Wales at a permanent disadvantage in his myopic view’. I have never listened to such rubbish in my life. In my opinion it reflects the twisted and warped thinking of the honourable member for Cunningham. Obviously he himself is concerned with interstate jealousy. He forgets that the Agreement that, is referred to in this legislation was signed by all of the State Premiers and that the first Premier to sign was the Premier of his own State, New South Wales. He ignores the fact that Sir Henry Bolte, in a letter to the Prime . Minister (Mr Harold Holt), gave an undertaking not to withhold supplies of gas to any other State subject, of course, to Victoria’s own requirements. I believe that none of this .trouble arose until after the discovery of oil and gas. In my humble opinion, had the discovery been made off the coast of New South Wales, the honourable member for Cunningham would not have been so vocal in his condemnation of the Agreement or of this legislation.
The honourable member continuously attacked the legislation as a sellout of Australia’s assets. But let us have a look at the facts. Up to the end of 1966, the grand total of expenditure on petroleum exploration in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea by both private enterprise and governments was $443. 3m. Of this private enterprise provided $352.6m, or approximately 80% of the total. The Commonwealth and State governments provided $90.7m, or about 20%. Of the private enterprise capital, overseas interests provided S214.1m, or 60%, and Australian interests contributed $138.5m, or 40%. Even more important, overseas companies provided the knowhow with which to find and extract the oil, and this knowhow cannot be measured in terms of money. Let us now see what sort of deal the Australian Government got for the taxpayers. We have to go back only to a time earlier this year to find the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) having to make a public statement to clear the Government of charges that it would kill the goose that laid the golden egg because its take from the profits of the oil companies was so high. An article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ on 10th January of this year showed the government take, as a percentage of divisible profit, at 52.8%. This represents royalty plus tax. It compares with 50.6% in West Germany; 50.4% in the United Kingdom, which, I remind the honourable member for Cunningham, has a Labour government; 47.72% in France; 46.8% in the United States of America; and 45.8% in Denmark. The article pointed out that of the eight countries listed, only Norway, at 55.2%, had a higher percentage than Australia.
Let us examine the situation further. Private enterprise put up 80% of the capital required to locate and develop the oil, and it provided the knowhow, but it is left with only 47.2% of the profits. Furthermore, very much of this will come back to the Australian taxpayer in the form of personal income tax on the wages and salaries of people employed in the industry. In addition, we have gained employment for a great many people not only in the basic oil industry but also in oil refining. We have gained a saving of overseas exchange, which was previously paid out for petroleum products. So the deal really is not a bad one for the taxpayers. The Opposition hates success. Or perhaps I should say that it hates the success of private enterprise. Labor encouraged General MotorsHolden’s Ltd to establish itself here at a time when it was thought that motor cars could not be manufactured in Australia and that, even if they could be, very few people would want to buy them. I give the late Mr Chifley, who was Prime Minister at the time, credit for his judgment in encouraging General Motors-Holden’s to set up in
Australia. But ever since then, though Labor was prepared to let private enterprise take all the risk, it has continually complained about the profits being made by this company. Honourable members opposite want it both ways. Now, al) of their criticism is directed at the successful companies engaged in oil exploration and development. Had oil and gas not been discovered in Australia, honourable members opposite would not have shed any tears about the private capital, whether it happened to be overseas or local, that had been put into oil search and lost. We would have heard nothing from them about it. Their policy is to share the profits, getting the largest share possible, and to contribute as little as possible to the cost of whatever development is needed to make those profits possible.
I believe that this is good legislation in spite of what some critics say. Overseas funds are not unlimited and they tend to go where the economic climate is most favourable. I refer again to the article from the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 10th January. In part it stated:
If the Government ‘take’, as it is known in the industry, is too small, funds that could be used in Australia to help our badly strained education, health and social services, or to rebuild our cities, will be going overseas against the interests of our balance of payments. -
But if the ‘take’ is too high, there will be a risk of inadequate capital for exploration and full development of our hydrocarbon resources.
Not only will Australia do very well as a result of this legislation, as I hope I have demonstrated, it is great legislation by international standards. As the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has pointed out, this is the first time that legislation of this nature has been resolved in a federal system. I believe that both West Germany and Canada are watching the outcome of it with great interest. Human nature being what it is, it is no doubt just as well that the various Australian governments resolved their problems before the discovery of offshore oil and gas. It is always easier to divide something that we have not got than it is to divide something tangible. However, the Agreement has been signed. On my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Australia I congratulate the Minister and the Government on what this legislation has achieved.
Wednesday, 1 November 1967
– What the Opposition objects to and what I think the nation should object to in this Bill is the complete abdication of Commonwealth power. This is very evident from the manner in which this Bill has been handled and from the manner in which the Agreement has been drafted. The only way in which any change can be effected in the Agreement is by agreement between all the States and the Commonwealth. If any one State disagrees with the proposed change, under this Agreement no alterations can be made. I hope that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) can prove me wrong on this point, but this appears to be the import of the clauses in the Agreement. lt is quite obvious at the moment that Victoria stands as the most favoured State with regard to offshore oil and gas, because it has within its section of the continental shelf the greatest reserves so far discovered close to the most economic market. Whether or not these reserves are exploited in the best interests of the nation or of Victoria is now left purely in the hands of the Premier of that State. The national interests have clearly been abdicated. The document which was circulated earlier this year dealing with the exchange of letters between the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Premier of Victoria clearly indicates that the Premier has complete control over the disposal of oil and gas from the fields. I refer to the Prime Minister’s letter dated 16th February 1967. It states, in part:
We are agreed that Victoria should not he required to approve any transaction for the sale of natural gas interstate which would have the effect of putting Victoria at a disadvantage in relation to that interstate purchaser, having regard to the following:
Adequate reserves are available to meet contractural obligations already entered into;
The conditions of such sale and their relation to sales already effected in Victoria;
The effect of the cost of transmission to any such interstate market.
Victoria has certain problems which 1 should have thought the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) would have raised. It has an investment of about $30m in the brown coal industry which quite properly Victoria is entitled to protect. It also has the problem of protecting electri city and other natural fuels. The price which has been negotiated in Victoria has no relationship to the value of the gas or the cost of its production. The price has been negotiated practically upon the basis of the cost of other fuels. It is reasonable to assume from the public statements which have been made on the negotiations as such that the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria was not prepared to accept the price until finally it yielded to the extreme pressure exerted by the Treasurer in Victoria, who is also the Premier. The price that has been accepted is 3c per therm.
In most countries of the world where natural gas is available under what could be said to be reasonably comparable circumstances to those in Victoria, the price paid is much lower than 3c per therm. I would like to quote some of the prices. In Canada the price paid is 1.4c per therm. The interstate price in the United States of America is 1.5c per therm. In Great Britain, where the situation is somewhat comparable with the Bass Strait finds in that almost an equal distance of piping is required, the price is less than 2c per therm. It is reasonable that the price for Victoria should have been approximately 2c per therm, paid to the companies. This price would have given the companies a fairly substantial profit margin. They have very low exploration costs, compared with the exploration costs in other countries. The amount of gas discovered per foot of well drilled in the Bass Strait area has been one-twelfth of that in America. Yet the price that Australia will pay is double. There is a very good reason for this, and it has nothing to do with the oil companies.
The Premier of Victoria rushed into an agreement for one obvious reason. A State election was forthcoming. The negotiations were starting to drag and the Premier felt that it was necessary politically to have an agreement signed quickly. Whilst in the United States the Premier blundered rather badly in making a statement that natural gas would put the briquette industry out of existence in a couple of years. On his return to Australia he was quite obviously told that this could not happen; the State of Victoria just could not stand it. I agree. The brown coal industry in Victoria is too well developed to be thrown down the drain overnight. The price which was negotiated for natural gas was a higher price than that recommended as reasonable by Dr Hetherington, the expert who was brought here by the Victorian Government to advise on prices to be paid. The price which was negotiated is above the price at which Dr Hetherington said the industry could make inroads into the present fuel market.
I point out to the House the problems which wm be faced in introducing natural gas into the Victorian market. The problems are the present per therm costs of fuel at the city gate, Melbourne. Natural gas, after transportation, will cost 3.3c per therm; briquettes 3.4c per therm; and furnace oils 2.8c per therm. For briquettes and furnace oils there is no limit on the costs at which they can be sold. In the case of briquettes the major cost is for capital equipment. If great inroads are made into the market it is just as economic to reduce the actual price and sell more goods than to have the machinery lying idle and incurring interest. With regard to furnace oils there is no manufacturing cost. The heavy furnace oils are residue from refineries here in Australia which are geared to refine Middle East oil. The residue cannot be disposed of in any way other than by sale to the public at whatever price the oil companies can obtain for it. Their actual costs and profits come from the sate of gasoline.
I remember well that in the early 1950s, when this problem of residual oil was becoming extremely serious, the oil companies talked the Victorian Railways into converting a number of engines to oil. The Victorian Railways bought the oil at a price of about £2 10s a tori. When they were pretty heavily committed to this type of fuel the price went up to £28 a ton. Then, when the engines were put into storage and the Railways started to convert them back to coal, the price came down to £8 a ton. The oil companies are in a pretty strong position in respect of furnace oil. They oan adjust the price in any way they like.
In this field there are other operators who are not protected in any way by this agreement or these Bills. The Premier of Victoria has already toW the Woodside company that it will not be allowed to produce oil in Victoria within the next 7 years because the Victorian Government has negotiated an exclusive agreement with the
BHP-Esso group for the supply of natural gas to the Melbourne area. I hope that that statement by the Premier is not correct. It is very difficult to sort out the various statements that he makes, because he contradicts himself from one day to the next. If there are in Victoria resources of natural gas that do not belong to the BHPEsso group, surely they are entitled to be exploited and the shareholders of the relevant companies are just as entitled to their share of the market as is anyone else. I believe that this Parliament has been treated rather badly in this matter. It was not consulted seriously on the agreement. It has handed over control of Commonwealth territories to the States to be exploited and totally controlled by them. No attempt has been made to maintain in the Commonwealth Parliament overriding power for national considerations.
I like what is good for Victoria because I live there, but what is good for Victoria may not necessarily be good for Australia. If a price of 3c a therm is reasonable in Victoria because it protects the investment in the brown coal industry whilst allowing natural gas reasonable access to the market, that does not necessarily mean that that price is economic in New South Wales after the natural gas has been piped 500 or 600 miles or that it is economic after the natural gas has been piped to Adelaide, if that is considered a feasible proposition. I understand that, as part of the deal in respect of this agreement, the South Australian Government has borrowed $43m from the Commonwealth in order to pipe gas from Gidgealpa to Adelaide. We dealt with the relevant legislation recently. The cost of piping that gas from Gidgealpa to Adelaide will be approximately three times the cost of piping gas from the Gippsland off-shore field to Melbourne. But, according to a statement made by Dr Alex Hunter in the Economic Record’ earlier this year, the price that will be paid at the city gate in South Australia will be 2.76c a therm. The South Australian transport cost will be three times the Victorian transport cost, but the South Australian price will be lower than the Victorian price at the well head. That is something that is worthy of investigation.
I believe that the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) is reasonable.
Once this legislation is passed the Commonwealth Parliament and the Commonwealth Government will be completely at the mercy of any State which feels that it has an advantage under the present agreement and which is not prepared to surrender that advantage. The Commonwealth Parliament should know exactly what policy the Government has for the exploitation of the fuel resources of this nation. It does not know that at this stage from any statement that has been made by the Government. There have been a lot of crocodile tears shed about the investment of money by oil companies. Oil companies never spend lc unless they think they will make Sc. This is good business. These companies have taken risks in every country of the world and the risks have paid off. There is no reason to expect that the risks will not pay off in Australia.
– What about the thousands that went to the wall?
– Companies have gone to the wall in the search for oil. Dry wells are part of the risk of oil investment. But the profit levels are comparable to the amount of money lost. There are very few major oil companies in the world which have not a greater capital standing than the Commonwealth of Australia. They could buy the place. I believe that this Parliament should set up a committee at the Commonwealth level to inquire into all aspects of the utilisation of our natural fuels. I believe that this Parliament should know exactly what it is doing when it passes this legislation. It may be that the legislation is as good as the Minister claims. We are not in a position to judge because very few facts have been presented to this Parliament.
I support the amendment. I hope the House will carry it because I believe that this is the last chance the Parliament will have to deal with this matter. Once this legislation is passed and receives the Royal assent it will then be left to the States to decide what happens to the vast reserves of oil which we all hope and believe exist in Australia. Many of our natural assets have passed beyond our control over recent years. The same excuse was used tonight as has been used on many previous occasions - that we do not have the money to do the work ourselves. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) said that a
Labor government had invited General Motors-Holden’s to risk its capital in the production of an Australian car. I stand to be corrected on this matter but I seem to remember that the Chifley Government guaranteed that company’s borrowings.
We are debating these Bills without having had a reasonable opportunity to study them. They were introduced only a little over a week ago. I believe that we need far more information before these Bills can be carried by this Parliament and the only real way of getting the information and of assessing exactly the import of these Bills is for the Parliament to investigate the whole field of fuel policies to ensure that Australia gets the maximum value out of its resources, even if someone else makes the profits.
– I do not intend to speak on this legislation in a parochial fashion as the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) did, or even in a State sense. I want to speak about it in a national sense. Discoveries of natural gas have been made recently ofl the coast of Victoria and more limited finds have been made in other parts of Australia. There is no reason to doubt that we will continue to make discoveries. I regard this matter as being entirely national in character. We must regard it as such irrespective of the particular desires or interests of any State at any particular time. It is a national question.
Treating it as such, I am sure that the pattern in Australia will follow closely the pattern of development established in other countries in which natural gas has been discovered and used for industrial purposes. Canada, for example, a country comparable to Australia in many respects, has multiplied the discovery ‘ and usage of natural gas fourteen times in the last 12 years. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is using sixteen times as much gas now as it did 12 years ago. The United States of America, where discoveries of oil and gas have been quite remote in time, has doubled its usage of natural gas in the last 12 years. There are forecasts that the network which supplies natural gas throughout the United States of America will be increased in mileage by a third in the next 10 years, such is the demand for this new commodity in that country. Natural gas in the United States now supplies more than a third of the total energy needs of the nation as against little more than a quarter 10 years ago.
This being the pattern in other countries which are in many ways comparable to Australia, I believe it reasonable to forecast a similar progression in this country. We can expect further discoveries of natural gas and a greatly increased demand for it in Australia. Therefore we must plan the provision of a network of pipelines to meet this need wherever it arises. It is in this regard that I think there is need for national planning. I was interested to see a slight difference in attitude on this regard between the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen).
I think it reasonable that the Commonwealth should establish a commission to control the reticulation of natural gas throughout Austrafia, particularly as some States have forecast that they will be using public money to construct these pipelines while others have forecast the use of private moneys. In eider to co-ordinate this construction I think it would be useful for the Commonwealth te establish a national commission as a co-ordinating authority. I was interested to see in the annex to the Agreement between the Commonwealth and States relating to this Bill that the Commonwealth and the States have agreed that:
That is, trade between the States: and with that in view they will confer from time to time as any of them requests. They declare their common intention not to discriminate against any such trade.
I think that that is a positive statement. I think it justifies the Commonwealth establishing a commission to control the reticulation of gas throughout the States and the Australian Capita] Territory. But I find that the Attorney-General, when speaking about this Bill, regarded it in a rather different light. He said:
If contrary to the memorandum a State broke the understanding, such action would entitle the Commonwealth to move in and use its constitutional powers.
This is looking at the matter from the other side of the coin. The Attorney-General says that we can move in as a Common wealth only if a State breaches the terms of this agreement. I would have thought that the understanding or the Agreement stood on its own; that it was a positive statement. However, I will not pursue this matter. I am not a legal authority, but to my mind there is a certain conflict between the Minister’s words and those of the Attorney-General in this connection.
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the matter are, I am sure that there is a need for planning. For example, the provision of this cheap form of energy which can be transported so cheaply throughout this nation provides an ideal means of encouraging decentralisation. No State - all States say that their finances are limited - will really encourage the reticulation of gas to out of the way country centres unless it can be absolutely sure that it will get a return on its investment. No private entrepreneur will build a pipeline to some small hamlet unless he can be absolutely certain that he will get a reasonable profit from his outlay. So somebody must induce the private entrepreneurs to act by giving them a financial concession. Somebody must induce the States to embark upon reticulation, which would be uneconomic initially in this form, to encourage decentralisation and the establishment of industries in small country centres. Nobody is better fitted to do this than is this Government. As for the cost of this energy in other countries, I do not take rauch notice of the remarks of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). I confidently believe that there will be some competition in this field between the States as discoveries take place in different parts of the Commonwealth.
Let me give some details as to the cost of energy transmission in the United States. I quote from ‘The Australian Chemical Processing and Engineering Manual 1967’. lt states:
The best coal-fired steam-electric operation corresponds to 81.35 per million Btu at 95% load factor with $4.50 per ton coal and fixed charges of 14% . . . Compare this to the average US city gate price for natural gas of 34 cents per million Btu . . .
Transportation of electrical energy in the most advanced extra high voltage transmission system, with private financing, will be typically g cents per million Btu per hundred miles for a long, high-capacity d.c. line, to 10-12 cents per million Btu per hundred miles for typical a.c. lines.
This compares to gas transportation costs of 1.5c per million British thermal units for 100 miles - a comparison of from 10c to 12c for electricity with 1.5c for gas. There is a very striking difference in the cost of energy as between electricity and gas in the United States. There is very little reason to suppose that a similar difference would not exist in this country if we were to reticulate gas in the same way between centres as has been done successfully in the United States.
I ask the Government to look closely at the need to establish a national pipelines commission to co-ordinate the reticulation of gas from discoveries off the coast of Tasmania or Victoria, or wherever gas is discovered throughout Australia and to make sure that the gas supplies are made available to likely growth centres in the interior. I refer to places which have a potential for future development and growth of industry and population. Only the Commonwealth Government can finance such an operation. I am sure that the Government should establish and has the power to establish a national commission for this purpose.
– It has been claimed that this Bill is an historic bill, and so it is. In order to understand and appreciate the tremendous achievement that lies behind its compilation I believe we have to see the complexity of the situation that existed before this legislation came into being. Every State had developed virtually its own code and method of governing oil, petroleum and mineral exploration. With this in view, the Commonwealth for a long time had through the Bureau of Mineral Resources exercised a very helpful and beneficial oversight of the whole Australian operation, but it had never really entered the act itself. It had provided the subsidies and a tremendous amount of technical information, but in terms of return there was precisely nothing. lt is true that if there was success the subsidy would be returned to the Government, but otherwise the Commonwealth was simply paying out for operations that were conducted by the several States and which, in the event of success, would bring royalties to the States; but there was nothing that would have come into the coffers of the Commonwealth as direct mining returns. I do not mean that there would not have been taxation revenue or that the other ways in which Commonwealth revenue- is increased would not have operated. I am speaking purely and simply in terms of return from mining operations as such.
With the establishment of this new agreement on offshore areas, a new kind of relationship between the Commonwealth and the States has emerged.. I agree that the mining of the sea bed for oil and gas is virtually a new field. It is an exciting field and one that calls for tremendous amounts of capital and knowhow. We in Australia are very fortunate indeed that success has attended our early efforts to the degree that it has. The discovery at Moonie, after the strike at Cabawin, brought for a short time tremendous excitement and interest into oil exploration on land. The proportion of success in that part of Queensland was two wells out of three. Unhappily it was not carried over in terms of statistics by further successes, but when success came in the offshore areas the same kinds of statistic began to grow and improve. Naturally the eyes of the world have turned towards these operations. We are searching off the Australian coast. At this stage the Commonwealth has entered the picture in a vitally important way. The Commonwealth’s entry into this field has come at a time when Australia is growing in a way which is demanding new power and a new source of cheap power and clean power, which is now happily available through natural gas and through the oil discoveries which are coming at the same time. With this potential growth in our whole field of cheap power for industry there is with it a consequent return not only to the States concerned through royalties but also to the Commonwealth, directly as well as indirectly. As the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has pointed out, even if a company is entirely foreign owned the Commonwealth claims more than 50% of the profits of the operation. At the same time the agreement is based upon a price for indigenous crude oil and the Government, I believe wisely, has built into the price a 75c incentive to stimulate the discovery of local indigenous oil. So there has been a Commonwealth contribution of some real magnitude which merits the consideration which comes to the Commonwealth from this arrangement with the States.
What was the previous situation? It was a situation where there was an argument as to whether the States or the Commonwealth really had sovereignty over the continental shelf beyond the 3-mile limit. As has been seen in other parts of the world, this was inviting litigation if the two bodies concerned’ - the State and the Commonwealth - were to attempt to make separate arrangements with the one company. I think a wise thing has been done to avoid this situation. Virtually the 3-mile limit has been wiped out. The whole of the continental shelf is now treated as a unity and has been divided up, not as the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) said, in a rather strange and incomprehensible way between the States because of the shape the lands take but, after a good deal of negotiation between the States, upon the basis of geophysical information on what was felt to be the layout of the sub-surface strata and traps or other petroleum potentiality. This enabled the States to bargain for the delineation of their own areas in a way which they were finally able to do with mutual agreement and to lay down boundaries which are to be regarded as sacrosanct by all parties concerned.
The current legislation is a compromise. It would be fatal to approach this with the view that we were looking at a Bill which had been drawn up by our own Commonwealth resources and departments and that we were bringing forward something which we claimed to be completely foolproof and without many of the flaws that anyone can find if he looks deeply into the legislation. When I refer to ‘flaws’ I mean simply that in this legislation I believe there is a reasonable framework for success if everybody acts sensibly and the operation is given a fair go. But if there is a determination on the part of a State or the Commonwealth to play the game hard, to disregard the spirit of the agreement and the legislation, there will be storms ahead.
I call the attention of honourable members to just one point in the exchange of letters between the Premier of Victoria and the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt). On 21st February Sir Henry Bolte wrote to Mr Holt and said that in his understanding, when they proceeded along these lines, they would of course keep the Commonwealth fully informed. He added later in the letter: You will be acquainted’, etc. But when Mr Holt wrote back two days later he made it a little different. He said: ‘It is understood that we will have full opportunity to discuss with you the terms of any proposed transaction.* So the State on the one hand says: ‘We will keep you informed of what we do,’ but the Commonwealth says: ‘We will discuss with you the terms of any proposed transactions before you reach any agreement.’ Obviously if anyone wants to be difficult, if anyone wants to play the game hard, there is plenty of opportunity for disagreement over that kind of exchange of letters. This, of course, does bring us to some of the things in this Bill which are compromise arrangements. I have had some worries about them myself. For instance, I have been concerned at the lack of mention of Australian interests and Australian companies in the Bill. There is no specific mention made of encouragements or preferences for Australian operations. I believe the Bill would have been better if that could have been done. It is understood, of course, that the people who will be administering it, the designated authorities, will be the several Premiers of the States and I believe that as long as they are Australian and Australian minded they will administer this particular legislation in the interests of the nation as well as in the interests of their own States. To this degree, the legislation certainly makes it possible for every one of them to take into consideration the nationality or the content in the shareholding in terms of Australian interest in granting applications for permits and in administering the bulk of this legislation.
Another worry that has been pointed out to me comes from the Australian Mining Industry Council. This Council is concerned about clause 20. It feels that because of the provision contained in this clause, a company, when making application for an exploration permit, would have to disclose to its competitors its own intentions with regard to a particular area because, before being granted, the application must first be gazetted. 1 think that a moment’s consideration of the present situation will dispel that worry because, as the position stands at the moment, all the prospective areas on the continental shelf have been taken up by one company or another. So areas which become vacant in the future will be areas which everyone will know about to a greater or less degree, and the only fair way to go about granting fresh permits for this available territory - if I can use that word in connection with the continental shelf - is to make the information available to everybody through the ‘Gazette’. I do not believe there is a serious disadvantage behind the case mentioned by the Australian Mining Industry Council.
A great deal has been made during this debate of what is claimed to be the unreasonable size .of the permits and the fact that these large permits will not mean adequate exploration. I personally feel that the arrangement contained in the Bill is a tremendous advance on anything we have seen set in the United States. Let us remember that it is not so many years since we were going to overseas companies, especially in the United States. Our petroleum geologists were going over there with the blessing of the various State Departments of Mines to seek the knowhow and capital of overseas companies to explore for oil in this country. I think, in South Australia, of the inducement of Santos Ltd to the Delhi organisation tq come and join in the search. It was. only the tremendous area that had been granted that was the incentive which led this company to leave what were in many ways much more prospective areas in America to come and explore in South Australia. Similarly in Western Australia, the 286,000 sq. miles that West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd held in its own tenements encouraged other interests to join in.
After the discovery of oil, which many of our best geologists declared would not take place at all as the geology of this country was too old, it is easy to be wise, but, in those days, it was considered a tremendous feather in the cap of a company which was able to attract an overseas company to assist it in its exploration work. But in this offshore exploration, a new concept has emerged. Not only has there been a limit placed on the actual size of a permit that will be granted - although I admit that one or more permits may be granted to a particular company - but in each case there is a rigorous system of surrender of area. Fifty per cent must be surrendered at the end of the sixth year and a further 50% of what is held after each of the successive 5-year periods. A company may start out with 10,000 square miles which, for a regional marine seismic survey or aerial magnetic survey, is not an unreasonable area to be covered with a reasonable amount of money in a reasonable time. The area can be reduced to half at the end of 6 years and it will be reduced each 5 years after that. In 21 years the 10,000 square miles will be reduced to 625 square miles. No company with the resources, particularly a large overseas company that is really out to make money and to get the best return it can from its investment, will treat lightly or relentlessly pursue the requirement to surrender part of the area. It will do its utmost to wring from the area the information that will give it the return that it is seeking.
I believe that the legislation will require a fair work programme to be carried out by the companies. If they have the resources to take more than one area, a tremendous additional burden will be placed on their exploration . programme. This, in relation to offshore areas and in the sense of the legislation, is fair enough. But personally 1 would like to have seen, if it had been possible, the States agreeing with the Commonwealth on these matters so that some kind of pressure might have been brought to bear on the very large permit holders ashore before they could qualify for the Commonwealth and State recognition in the offshore areas. However, that is just so much water under the bridge. After all, we did make these agreements and if they can be criticised now, particularly in view of the Western Australian legislation, we can do so only on the basis of lack of foresight back in the days when the States were handling the matter.
A number of other points have been raised by honourable members who have been worried about various aspects of the legislation. The honourable member for
McMillan (Mr Buchanan) was very concerned about the requirement to provide reservoir statistics and later in section 58 the demand for proration, which allows the designated authority to place a limit on production from any field at any time. The honourable member was worried lest this should not be carried out in a sound economic or technical manner. Personally, I do not think that this is a worry that ought to be entertained. A company large enough to explore for oil in the offshore areas will have expert ability, lt petroleum reservoir engineers will certainly have the knowhow, which, with the information available to the Commonwealth and State Departments of Mines, will enable them to use their expert knowledge. The question of the number©! permits, I think, should be put behind us.
The non-disclosure of information by overseas companies is another matter that has worried some people in Australia. I am delighted to see that the legislation contains a very strong provision. It allows a penalty to be applied on a continuing basis if a company does not report within 3 days, I think it is, the discovery of petroleum. I congratulate these who framed the legislation on a new development altogether. My greatest worry as an Australian has been that companies net receiving subsidies for their operations could sit on the information they receive from wells, take it back to the United States or to continental Europe or wherever the headquarters are located, and never make the information available to our governmental authorities or to the general public in Australia. The. framers of the legislation have won a victory here. The legislation provides not only for subsidised operations, in respect of which information is normally available to the public within 6 months, but also for non-subsidised operations. So all information will eventually become available to the people of Australia within 5 years. This will add to our knowledge of national assets. These are things that I fee] are very great advances and which do bring us to the threshold of a new era in oil exploration.
There is still another major problem. It relates to the interstate transmission of oil or, particularly, of gas. We have seen the exchange of letters between the Premier of
Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, and the Prime Minister. I have already pointed out the potential area of strain as to the understanding of what that agreement means. Unhappily, even on the day before this legislation was introduced into the House, a statement was made from Victoria which did not exactly go to help matters. Honourable members have been provided with an attachment to the letters exchanged between the Prime Minister and Sir Henry Bolte. These have been printed and tabled. The Prime Minister sets out what he understands to be the conditions wherein the Commonwealth agrees to interstate transmission of oil and gas and to the way in which it shall be undertaken. The Prime Minister in one of these letters states that the States have agreed that they will do everything that they can to encourage this interstate traffic. But in the case of Victoria, for instance, there are three things which in this present instance apply.
First, Victoria must have some say regarding reserves which are there, to make adequate provision for its own requirements and for contracts already existing, and some account must be taken of the cost of transmission, not necessarily to the extent of equalising the city gate prices in the various States or areas served by a pipeline, but of the cost of transmission in fixing the price in Victoria. At the same time, Victoria should not be at a disadvantage with regard to price arrangements. The Prime Minister’s use of this important negative phrase, that Victoria should not be at a disadvantage, has been taken up in Victoria as a basis for an assertion that Victoria should be at an advantage. This is rather a different thing.
So, the day before this legislation was introduced into the House there was rather an inept comment by Mr Roberts, the Secretary to the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria, when he spoke about the matter of supplying gas, in this case to New South Wales. The ‘Australian* of that date headed its report: ‘Victoria may stop gas going to New South Wales’. Mr Roberts made out that no gas would be permitted to be transmitted unless there were a good deal more than the then known reserves, which at that time could be as high as 5.2 million million cubic feet - and according to computations. even at the expanded capacity of the plant for the treatment of gas ashore, which could treat 400 million cubic feet a day, this is thirteen times the present requirement of Victoria. Even at that expanded rate of thirteen times the present requirement the gas reserves would last Victoria for more than 30 years. Yet Mr Roberts was speaking about this being inadequate to enable Victoria to agree to energy in the shape of gas going out of Victoria to New South Wales.
I believe that it would be courting severe censure and displeasure from those who have entered on this agreement if anything as ridiculous as this were decided upon. It is the experience of this industry across the world that as one goes on to use the reserves they continually grow. It is true that there is a limit to the amount of fossil fuel in the world. There have been gloomy prophecies since the first day the first well started to be exploited that reserves would run out, but always they have managed to keep well ahead of the present requirements, and this, I am sure, will be true for a long time to come in Australia. Some reports threatened that there could be obstruction at the intrastate transmission level of the Victorian Pipeline Commission. Sir Henry Bolte, as I understand it, demanded from Esso-BHP that he should see all contracts of sale relating to gas sold to New South Wales. He has given a direction that no contract is to be signed unless he is satisfied as to price, as to the size of Victorian reserves, and that the Victorian Pipeline Commission participates in the operation. It is apparent that these things are authorised in the Bill, but the agreement underlying the Bill is founded on the Constitution, and clearly bows to the Constitution as it must. The overriding question then is whether section 92 permits this kind of direction to be given by a Premier with regard to interstate trade. No wonder that the Minister, in replying to a question last week in the House, said that questions on the legal aspect of this matter might properly be addressed to the AttorneyGeneral or even to the High Court. I hope that these words are not prophetic. I know that the Minister certainly does not want them to be.
I conclude, as I began, by saying that this is a Bill which is rooted and grounded in a compromise - a valuable, wise compromise. It gives us a framework for continuing Commonwealth and State co-operation. It gives us the opportunity of cutting down on the degree to which overseas interests can hold on to our reserves and fail to give us information or an adequate exploration programme. These aspects are being tackled in the Bill. 1 know the Bill is not perfect. Many of us would like to tighten up things here and there, but I believe that with wise administration from the several States - and, remember, they have Premiers of all political shades - and with the Premiers of the States working together with our own Minister, we will be able to bring about a situation that will be very greatly to the national advantage. So on the consensus of my own view of the Bill I conclude by congratulating the Minister and his officers who have worked so hard to bring this into effect, because I think it is a notable piece of legislation.
– I thank the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) for his contribution to this debate. As honourable members know, he is Chairman of the Government Members Mining Committee which has worked so hard and with great effect. I thank him also for his reference to the officers of my Department. I should like to be associated with that reference and also with his remarks about officers of the Attorney-General’s Department who have done a fantastic job over a long period in bringing this agreement into being. I realise that the Opposition has said that there was a paucity of time to study this matter. I would be the first to recognise that this is a tremendously difficult, complicated and complex Bill. It is not easy to understand it quickly. For that reason I have, throughout the time in which we have been negotiating with the States, done my utmost to try to keep the Parliament informed of action that we were taking. Two years ago I, and every State Minister, made a statement in which we outlined the policy that we were going to adopt. Since then, whenever we have met, we have issued Press statements so that people could follow the thought behind the Bill. Let me refer to the thought behind the Bill, because I think it is essential in understanding the action that we have taken.
The Bill is, of course, quite unique in the history of the federal system. It is epoch making. We looked at our various powers and at what was happening in other parts of the world to decide what sort of scheme would be in the best interests of Australia as a whole. If a test case went to the courts it is likely that it would be held - this is only my view, because it cannot be proved until such time as the courts issue a ruling - that outside the 3-mile limit the Commonwealth had the power to legislate for offshore oil and gas development.
– Did not the United Nations clear that up?
– No, it has not done that at all. All that it said was that a particular state - by ‘state’ I mean a particular nation - has the right to develop offshore areas on the continental shelf. It did not say whether it should be a state or a federal authority. It is my view that inside the 3- mile limit the States would probably be given the power. There were three things we could have done. We could have legislated to cover the whole lot and waited for the inevitable litigation that would have occurred when the States challenged our power in regard to inshore areas. We could have legislated to cover just from the 3- mile limit out. In either of those cases, if we had been left with just that area from the 3-mile limit out to the edge of the continental shelf, we would have faced all the problems that have faced development in the United States and under other federal systems. In other words, we would have had two codes operating. We already have one strike off Gippsland which straddles the 3-mile limit. We would have had State law applying inside and Federal law applying outside the limit. The third alternative, and the one which eventually commended itself to the Government was to say: ‘Let us engage in consultation with the States and see whether they are prepared to make an agreement under which we each decide we will not test the other’s rights. We will have a joint agreement signed between the Commonwealth and the States. We will have a joint common code under which offshore mining companies will know that anywhere on the Australian continental shelf the same mining rules and regulations apply. But naturally there are certain things that the Commonwealth requires. Unless we can obtain these we will not sign the agreement.’
This was what led to a very long period of 3i years of bargaining, which was finally concluded successfully and, I think, to the advantage of Australia as a whole. Some people have said that we could have gone to the courts and got a ruling on who was entitled to legislate in certain areas. This is not the only problem, of course. The greatest problem in the United States was not this particular problem; it was the problem of delineating boundaries. It is 22 years since Truman made his announcement about the continental shelf of America being reserved to the United States for development. Since that time there has been very considerable litigation. Litigation in the United States is occurring fairly frequently. In Louisiana alone there is an amount of $800m held in escrow - frozen money - because it is not known who owns it. This is starting to occur in relation to the offshore areas of California. The Canadians are now initiating litigation. A case has been prepared by the province of British Columbia, and I believe that other provinces are now joining it to attack the Federal Government to see who has this right. It is my view - and I think it is a correct one - that it is doubtful whether any of us in this Mouse will see the end of litigation on offshore oil in the United States.
– That will go for Australia too.
– It will not if this legislation passes through the chamber as I expect and believe it will. We have an agreement under which we have come together and agreed not to contest one another’s right. I mentioned that had we gone it alone it would not have been a case of operating from the 3-mile limit out; it would have been a case of the Commonwealth Government setting up a completely new organisation to run the offshore areas. This could have been done, of course, but again it would have been at a cost. It would have been duplicating and making more difficult the administration that already exists.
We are told that there are a number of unsatisfactory features in this legislation. One criticism concerns the fact that the areas are too large. I do not think anyone believes - the honourable member for
Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) who spoke on this does not believe it - that we could immediately go in and divest these companies of the leases they had accepted in good faith, believing that the States at the time had the right to issue the leases. So, what we decided to do was the next best thing. We decided that these areas should be gradually reduced. This agreement in 6 years time makes provision for 50% of the continental shelf to return to the States and to the Commonwealth - to the designated authorities. In 6 years, which is not a long period, these areas will be available for distribution to the most suitable companies that are available. Of course, all of us want to see the greatest possible Australian equity. Why is there not a greater Australian equity? The honourable member for Mackellar spoke in our Party room last week and used the quotation from Shakespeare:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves . . .
This applies to offshore oil. How many people and how many members in this House have put risk capital into assisting Australian companies? We have seen the tragic situation of companies with good prospective areas trying to raise a bit of capital on the Stock Exchange and then having to forfeit shares that were not taken up and could not be sold even for 3d. These were shares that ought to have been of value. Perhaps we are too much inclined to spend mosey on poker machines and the TAB and do not put enough into the development of this country.
It so happens that many of these leases for offshore oil were held by Australian companies. However, these companies had work requirements. They could not sit on the leases. They had to do this work just as the other companies have to do work to prove the areas. Since Australian companies could not do the work they sought overseas partners, and these partners of course earned an interest. We now find ourselves in a situation in which, I would be the first to admit, a higher proportion of our offshore areas is owned by overseas companies than I would like to see. If I could have a word with some of these companies I would say to them that they would be well advised - I think it was the honourable member for
Batman (Mr Benson) who made this point - to seek Australian participation because there is nothing that turns a country against overseas investment more than the fact that companies are 100% owned by overseas companies. I feel certain that some companies have sought Australian participation. I also feel certain that as time goes by many more will take this action when they feel that there are suitable Australian companies available with which to co-operate.
The plain fact of the matter is that when we started the search for offshore oil, people were not available in Australia with the knowledge, the technical knowhow and the resources to undertake this work. The honourable member for Mackellar, who complains that overseas domination of our offshore oil is too great, has a brother-in-law who is Chairman of Directors of Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd. BHP produced a question and answer booklet in which the following appears:
How did the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Esso become involved?
On the basis of expert advice, BHP made a decision in 1960 to take up permits and licences to explore for petroleum in an area totalling 63,000 square miles of Bass Strait. BHP’s initial survey work indicated that further exploration was justified. BHP did not have the specialised and highly technical knowledge or the resources to undertake the programme necessary.
Here is the greatest company in Australia, a most remarkable company, yet it is the first to admit that it did not have the resources or the technical knowhow necessary. So it sought and obtained an excellent overseas partner. If that company was not able to do it, bow could we expect some of the smaller companies to go in on the scale we would have liked to see? Now they are obtaining this knowhow. We are learning more and more every day and I am sure that in time we will see a greater Australian participation.
I stress that in relation to these areas there is, firstly, the relinquishment under which 50% will be relinquished after 6 years another 50% after another 5 years, and every 5 years thereafter 50% of these areas will be relinquished and made available by the designated authority, who in every case is an Australian, and who will look for the best possible person to take them on. In addition to that, of course, there is a work requirement and a rent. On the licence side there is the same relinquishment unless an override royalty is paid.
Let me make a point here because a number of people on both sides of the House have said that we should not have altered the original rule which provided that once a person obtained a licence five of the original nine blocks in the square into which areas were divided could be retained and the other four were to be sold by tender. We have altered that rule now so that the company concerned has the right either to relinquish the four, which are sold by the designated authority by tender, or else pay an override over the whole nine blocks. This means that instead of the royalty being 10% it could be 11% or between 11% and 12$%. We were told that we should not have done that. In actual fact, the assessment of my Department is that this will benefit considerably the Governments concerned. They will get more from an override than they would have got under the previous arrangement.
I think we made a mistake in the original proposal. We had said that when the four blocks were put up for tender the person who held the licence on the other five had only to match the tender of the highest bidder. That put him in a too satisfactory position because there were no competitors. We have altered that now and said that if that person wants to buy the other four blocks he must submit a tender just as everyone else does.
– But the Government could have had 12-)% overall.
– Of course we could have made the royalty any amount but we had to devise a scheme which would encourage people to come in. We did not want to make the royalty too high and perhaps force them to go elsewhere because they have only a certain amount to spend on exploration and they go wherever they think the best prospects lie. As the Opposition has mentioned, only two countries in the world - the United Kingdom and the United States - pay a higher royalty than does Australia. The vast majority of countries are either on our level or below our level.
The 10% is the royalty which runs through most of the States. In some cases in the States it is even lower than that. So I believe that on the question of royalty we have got to a stage at which there will be a considerable return to governments while at the same time we will not discourage the companies from carrying out the programme which is so necessary if we are to discover oil in Australia. It. is essential to encourage drilling and discovery, but some people do not realise this. They seem to think it is better to have undiscovered oil in the ground rather than to get it out, although of course we get 50% of the proceeds and so have a great interest in getting it out, even if it is extracted by a completely overseas-owned company.
I do not want to speak at too great length. I could have followed through a great many, of the matters that were raised. The honourable member for Batman, for example, referred to the need to control pollution of the sea. This is dealt with in clause 97 (2.) which requires a title holder to prevent the waste or escape of petroleum in his title atea. The honourable member for Wilmot said - I do not know where he got hold of this - something to the effect that Mr Fagan and Mr Dunstan, the two Labor people, signed under duress. 1 can assure him that this is completely untrue. In fact I would like to pay a tribute to both these people, particularly Mr Fagan who, I believe, played a very great part in having this agreement concluded. On one occasion when things looked a little sticky he gave me considerable help. I admire his technical skill and the ability with which he and ail the Ministers for Mines and AttorneysGeneral approached this agreement, lt is not just an agreement that was thrown up on the spur of the moment. We had the opportunity to get together the top mining engineers and officials in Australia, and they looked very closely at every aspect of offshore oil drilling. We have sent our own Department of National Development officers overseas to study various kinds of legislation, and they have brought back much helpful information. Similar steps have been taken by the States.
There are many other matters that I should mention, but I will try to be as brief as possible. Mention has been made of the price paid for natural gas and of the belief that Victoria has paid too much for it. Of course this is the kind of statement that can always be made. Some people say that it is too much; others, particularly those who are gelling the product, have said that it is not enough. It is true that in the United States and Canada at the present time, because those countries are so much further ahead than we are, the price is less than the price that has been negotiated here. Of course, the first development involves an enormous initial expense that has to be amortised. In every country one finds that the first price is the highest. Afterwards sales are made at lower prices. I know that in the United States and Canada the well-head price is 1.4c and 1.5c per therm. But in France it is 4c; in Holland it is 4c when sold within Holland and 3c to other countries. In England the price after the first discovery was 5.2c. These prices are all above the price for Australian gas which varies between 2.5c-
– That is not the average English price, and the Minister well knows it.
– I said that was the price after the first discovery, but they are negotiating-
– Do not mislead the House.
– I am not misleading the House. If the honourable member had been awake and listening he would have heard me say that this was the price for original sale. At the present time negotiations are being carried on. The companies are still seeking 4.16c and the Gas Council is offering 3.12c. Both of these prices are above the Gippsland price. I do not think the Australian price is unreasonable by any manner of means, and it is on the basis that the more sold the lower the price will be.
– What about the price in New South Wales?
– Order! The honourable member for Cunningham has already spoken in the debate.
– We are now to be held to ransom.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Cunningham to restrain himself.
– Reference has been made to the need for a fuel policy. I do not want to go over that matter at this early hour of the morning. All I say is that the Government has shown that it has a remarkably good fuel policy. We would not be discussing the question of fuel now if we had not had a policy that encouraged fuel discovery. The success of our fuel policy, our policy of subsidisation, our local price which encourages the use of Australian petroleum, the strength of the economy and the stability of the Australian Government, have caused people to come from abroad to help develop our fuel assets. We will have seven rigs operating offshore by the end of the year. This is because of our very successful fuel policy. We have done our utmost to discover resources, to map them, to assess them and to see that they are developed. People who talk about a fuel policy usually are people who have some fuel that normally those who use fuel, such as electricity authorities and the like, do not want to use because it is low grade. People who talk about a fuel policy say that the users of fuel should be forced to use something that they do not want. This is not our policy at all. We believe that the cheapest, the most efficient and the most economic fuel should be used.
As I have said, one could speak at great length in dealing with all the points that have been raised. All I say is that the Government believes that this is an epoch making Bill. It is one which I believe the rest of the world envies. Other countries have had to go through litigation that has caused considerable trouble. I have told the House previously that when I was in Washington recently I visited the Power Commission. The members of the Commission told me they believed that the development of natural gas in the United States had been held up by from 3 to 5 years because of litigation and the constant problems that have been associated with the fights between the States and the Federal authorities. The Government opposes the Opposition’s amendment. I ask the House to support the Bill.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Crean’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment negatived.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Majority .. ..25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Bill committed pro forma; progress reported.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1967.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 4) 1967.
Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Pay-Roll Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Income Tax Bill 1967.
Income Tax (Partnerships and Trusts) Bill 1967. Income Tax (Non-Resident Dividends and Interest) Bill 1967.
House adjourned at 1.45 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
In what countries are local telephone calls not charged separately but covered by the rental?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is known that local telephone calls are not charged separately but are covered by the annual rental for telephone services in New Zealand and also in certain areas of the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Japan and Italy. This method of charging for telephone service is termed the flat-rate system as distinct from the measured-rate system under which an annual rental is applied for the service and each call is charged separately.
In U.S.A. and Canada, business subscribers in some areas may choose either the flat-rate system or pay an annual rental which covers a set monthly allowance of local calls, calls in excess of the allowance being charged separately.
As a general rule, telephone charges in Australia compare favourably with those in areas where the flat-rate system is operating. For example, in Melbourne a business subscriber with an average local calling rate (1,388 calls a year) would pay an annual charge of about $95 for rental and local calls. Comparative flat-rate annual charges for business services in overseas countries are $170 in Montreal (Canada), $220 in Denver (U.S.A.) and $108 in Wellington (N.Z.). In New York a business subscriber pays an annual rental of $107 which covers an allowance of seventy-five local call units monthly at the basic rate of 5c each. However, only calls within the same zone in New York can be made for one local call fee. A call between two distant zones in the New York local call area attracts a charge of up to seven units at 5c each. As a further example, a residence subscriber in Melbourne with an average local calling rate (635 calls a year) would pay $65 yearly for rental and local calls compared with the flat-rate annual charge of $74 for a residence subscriber in Denver. On the other hand, the comparative flat-rate charge is $61 in Montreal and $55 in Wellington but the Melbourne subscriber has access to a larger area and more subscribers.
With the introduction of the extended local call area (ELSA) arrangements in Australia in 1960, the distances over which telephone subscribers could make local calls were increased appreciably and our local call areas are now substantially larger than those in nearly all overseas countries. For instance, in Melbourne a subscriber can call over an area of approximately 1,600 square miles for a local call fee, whereas in New York the local call area is divided into thirty-three zones, each zone averaging about 21 square miles. As mentioned earlier, only calls within the same zone may be obtained for a single local call fee; calls to other zones cost a multiple of the unit fee depending on the distance.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the cumulative total amount of Federal funds, in the 1946-67 period, given by means of non-repayable grants to the (a) wheat, (b) wool, (c) dairying, (d) beef, (e) sugar, (f) cotton and (g) minerals (explorations) industries?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The main Commonwealth non-repayable grants over the period July 1946 to June 1967 in respect of the industries named are set out below. The amounts specified as research grants are those paid into trust accounts on a matching basis with industry contributions. In addition, a substantial amount of research in respect of these industries is financed from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Vote and further amounts are provided by the Commonwealth for grants for other research projects. Primary industries also benefit from the lower prices of petroleum products made possible by subsidy payments.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the total amount of Federal funds given to individual primary industries by nonrepayable grants in each of the last 10 years in respect of (a) subsidy, (b) bounty, (c) research and (d) other direct financial assistance?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The main Commonwealth non-repayable grants in respect of primary industries over the past 10 years are set out below. The amounts specified as research grants are those paid into trust accounts on a matching basis with industry contributions.
In addition, a substantial amount of research in respect of these industries is financed from the C.S.I.R.O. Vote and further amounts are provided by the Commonwealth for grants for other research projects. Primary industries also benefit from the lower prices of petroleum products made possible by subsidy payments.
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
It is not clear whether the question relates to aircraft stall which is the literal interpretation of the question or relates to the compressor stall to which much publicity has recently been given. It is therefore intended to cover both aspects in the replies hereunder:
Aircraft Stall. Answered as part of Question (i).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What was (a) and (b) as a percentage of
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. Precise figures are not known but an indication of the numbers of school leavers at this level each year is provided by the numbers enrolled at August in the final secondary school form. This information is obtainable from the Schools’ bulletins published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics and is given for Government and non-Government schools combined in the following tables. The figures shown overstate the number of school leavers from this form to the extent of the comparatively small numbers of students who will return to school to repeat the year.
3 and 4. The answers to parts 3 and 4 are shown in the following table:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
3 and 4.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is he able to state for each of the States and for the Commonwealth the amount spent on (a) legalised gambling and (b) the consumption of cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol in each of the past five years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Statistics for lotteries, investments with totalisators and investments with licensed bookmakers are the only forms of gambling for which statistics are collected by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. The following statements show details of these forms of gambling and the consumption of cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol for the latest five years available. Particulars of the consumption of cigarettes, etc., and alcohol are available only for the Commonwealth as a whole.
asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice: is he able to supply statistics to confirm trends in the distribution of migrants between the States and the factors which determine the numbers who who go to any particular State on arrival in Australia?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Only a relatively small proportion of Australia’s annual intake of migrants is susceptible to allocation by the Commonwealth authorities to particular areas.
These are Commonwealth nominees who account for about one fifth of the total migrant intake.
In the allocation of Commonwealth nominees due regard is paid to their personal wishes and the allocation to particular States of those who have no specific preference is governed largely by the employment situation and the availability of hostel accommodation.
The destination of all migrants other than Comwealth nominees is determined by the location of accommodation provided by relatives, friends, employers, State authorities or community organisations sponsoring them.
One of the important determinants of the destination of assisted British migrants is the personal nomination system which is in the hands of the State authorities. The latest trends in personal and State group nominations show no significant change except in the cases of South Australia and Western Australia. In South Australia there has been a significant decrease and in Western Australia a marked increase.
The distribution of new settlers, with the figures for assisted British migrants in brackets, according to their declared destination for the last four financial years was as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Committee recommendedthat the Constitution should be altered so that:
Potatoes (Question No. 693)
asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Transfer of marketable securities,
Evidence (including Crown privilege and the use of computer evidence),
Invasion of privacy,
Consumer protection (including onerous contracts and door to door salesmen),
Liability for nuclear damage, and
Legal aspects of artificial rain making.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19671031_reps_26_hor57/>.